Australian Biological Resources Study

Australian Faunal Directory


Regional Maps


Compiler and date details

1 December 2002 - Gerasimos Cassis; updated by Andrew A. Calder, CSIRO Entomology, Canberra, Australia


The cosmopolitan Scarabaeidae are by far the largest family of the Scarabaeoidea, with a world fauna of about 2,300 genera and 27,000 species. They are commonly referred to as dung beetles, chafers or flower beetles. Gemminger & Harold (1869) provided the first catalogue of the world fauna and subsequent catalogues have been produced for the various subfamilies (see under subfamily introductions).

The subfamilial classification is in considerable dispute, with a number of groups now conceded family status. Iablokoff-Khnzorian (1977) listed 21 subfamilies and Lawrence (1982) suggested 20 subfamilies and numerous tribes. No single subfamilial classification of the world is followed in this checklist. The number of subfamilies, however, is considered to be many less than the above proposals; the Australian fauna was represented in the Catalogue by seven subfamilies. In this checklist, the subfamilial arrangement used for the Australian fauna is that of Lawrence & Britton (1991). Iablokoff-Khnzorian (1977) discussed the phylogeny of the subfamilies of the Scarabaeidae and their relationships to the families in the superfamily. Howden (1982) discussed the taxonomic arrangement and the phylogeny of the subfamilies. He included the Geotrupidae, Pleocomidae (not Australian), and Trogidae as subfamilies of the Scarabaeidae, an arrangement which is not followed in this work.

The Australian fauna presently consists of 270 genera and 2,233 species. Much of the fauna is described, although a considerable number of new species are to be added for the Melolonthinae. The Aphodiinae have been revised recently, but the Cetoniinae still require revisionary work; the genera need attention and species synonymy is suspected. Between the 1860s and 1920s, Macleay, Blackburn and Lea described much of the fauna and Masters (1886) provided a catalogue of the Australian species. Where relevant, their works and more modern taxonomic treatments for the subfamilies are listed in the subfamily introductions. Howden (1981) discussed the zoogeography of some of the subfamilies of the Scarabaeidae. Barbero & Palestrini (2003) gave new records for some 46 species already known to occur in Australia

The biology of the Scarabaeidae is varied. In the Aphodiinae and Scarabaeinae the larvae and adults feed on dung. The adults generally form burrows and provision them with dung for the larvae. In the Rutelinae, Dynastinae and Cetoniinae the larvae live either in rotting wood or in the soil where they consume humus or roots. The adults of Cetoniinae are known to feed on nectar or pollen, and Rutelinae adults are often leaf feeders. Adults of Dynastinae are nocturnal, commonly associated with soil and do not feed on leaves. The larvae of Melolonthinae feed on roots and humus in the soil and the adults are known to feed on plant foliage, although some do not feed. The biology of Aclopinae remains unknown. McQuillan (1985) described the larval morphology of some species of Dynastinae, Rutelinae and Melolonthinae.



The adults of the family are small to large in size (3-60 mm), often stout, usually brown to black in colour but sometimes with bright colours, and rarely clothed with scales (e.g. Microvalgus Kraatz, see Lawrence & Britton 1991). In most cases, either the labrum and/or the mandibles are concealed from above by the clypeus. The antennae are 8–10 segmented, and the antennal club is composed of three to seven moveable lamellae. The mesocoxae range from contiguous to widely separated and tergite VIII forms a pygidium which is often exposed (Lawrence 1982). Sexual dimorphism is often present; the head and the pronotum in the male have protruberances and excavations (Lawrence 1982). The larvae are strongly curved, C-shaped and sometimes humpbacked (Lawrence 1982), the pale to reddish brown head is well developed, the antennae are 4-segmented, and the legs are not modified as stridulatory organs (Lawrence & Britton 1991).


General References

Barbero, E. & Palestrini, V. 2003. Coleoptera Trogidae, Geotrupidae, Hybosoridae, Scarabaeidae (Scarabaeinae and Dynastinae) collected in Australia. pp. 303-328 in Daccordi, M. & Giachino, P.M. (eds). Results of the Zoological Missions to Australia of the Regional Museum of Natural Sciences of Turin, Italy. I. Monografie del Museo Regionale di Scienze Naturali, Torino, 35, 565 pp.

Gemminger, M. & Harold, E. von 1869. Catalogus Coleoptorum hucusque descriptorum synonymicus et systematicus autoribus. Scarabaeidae. Monachii : E.H. Gummi Vol. 4 pp. 979-1346.

Howden, H.F. 1981. Zoogeography of some Australian Coleoptera as exemplified by the Scarabaeoidea. pp. 1009-1035 in Keast, A. (ed.). Ecological Biogeography of Australia. The Hague : Dr. W. Junk.

Howden, H.F. 1982. Larval and adult characters of Frickius Germain, its relationship to the Geotrupini, and a phylogeny of some major taxa in the Scarabaeoidea (Insecta: Coleoptera). Canadian Journal of Zoology 60: 2713-2724

Iablokoff-Khnzorian, S.M. 1977. Uber die Phylogenie der Lamellicornia. Entomologische Abhandlungen. Staatliches Museum für Tierkunde Dresden 41: 135-200

Lawrence, J.F. 1982. Coleoptera. pp. 482-553 in Parker, S.P. (ed.). Synopsis and Classification of Living Organisms. New York : McGraw Hill Vol. 2 vii 1232 pp.

Lawrence, J.F. & Britton, E.B. 1991. Chapter 35. Coleoptera (Beetles). pp. 543-683 in Division of Entomology, CSIRO (ed.). The Insects of Australia. Ithaca, New York : Cornell University Press Vol. 2.

Masters, G. 1886. Catalogue of the described Coleoptera of Australia. Part III. Lucanidae and Scarabaeidae. Proceedings of the Linnean Society of New South Wales 2 1: 21-126

McQuillan, P.B. 1985. The identification of root-feeding cockchafer larvae (Coleoptera: Scarabaeidae) found in pastures in Tasmania. Australian Journal of Zoology 33: 509-546


History of changes

Note that this list may be incomplete for dates prior to September 2013.
Published As part of group Action Date Action Type Compiler(s)
16-Jun-2022 SCARABAEIDAE 04-Jun-2022 REVIEWED
12-Feb-2010 (import)