Fossil Record of Scarabaeoidea

Clarke H. Scholtz
(from Scholtz 1990)

The fossil record contributes little to understanding scarabaeoid phylogeny. Iablokoff-Khnzorian (1977) and Crowson (1981) reviewed what is known.

The oldest probable scarabaeoid, Aphodiites, is known from the Lower Lias (Lower Jurassic) of Switzerland. It is small (5 mm long), Aphodiine-like, with striated elytra and large prothorax with supposed notal marks indicating the characteristic scarabaeoid features of dorsal articulations of the coxae. Larger scarabaeoid-like fossils such as Opiselleipon (15 mm) are known from Upper Lias beds in Saxony and Geotrupoides (35 mm) from Upper Jurassic beds.

Fossils resembling modern Geotrupidae and Hybosoridae (based primarily on the presence of four main anal wing veins) have been recorded from Lower Cretaceous deposits in China (e.g. Protoscarabaeus). An unusual scarabaeoid with features similar to some termitophilous Aphodiinae but otherwise unlike any modern scarabaeoid, is known from Lower Cretaceous amber of Lebanon (Crowson, 1981).

No fossil scarabaeoids are known from the Upper Cretaceous.

It is evident from the fossil record that the main divisions of modern Scarabaeoidea were distinct from the beginning of the Tertiary. About 80 species, some of which represent extant genera, are known from North America and Europe. Fossil dung balls such as those made by modern Scarabaeinae are known from Lower Oligocene beds of Chile, and forms similar to modern Aphodiinae from Lower Eocene London Clay. Baltic amber has yielded a lucanid, Palaeognathus, and an Aphodius, and Dominican amber (25-40 my, Poinar personal communication), Ceratocanthidae typical of more specialised forms with rolled body form and broad, flat posterior tibiae closely applied to the body (C.H. Scholtz personal observation).

The oldest recorded higher scarabaeoid, Eophyllocerus, (assigned to Melolonthinae) is from Eocene coal deposits of Germany.


Scholtz, C.H. 1990. Phylogenetic trends in the Scarabaeoidea. Journal of Natural History 24: 1027-1066.

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Clarke H. Scholtz
University of Pretoria, South Africa

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