Organisms Diversity & Evolution

, Volume 17, Issue 1, pp 181–198 | Cite as

Revised classification and phylogeny of an Afrotropical species group based on molecular and morphological data, with the description of a new genus (Coleoptera: Scarabaeidae: Onthophagini)

  • Angela Roggero
  • Enrico Barbero
  • Claudia Palestrini
Original Article


The worldwide distributed Onthophagus genus comprises at present more than 2000 species, that often show a complicated and uncertain systematic history. In particular, the many Afrotropical species included in this genus have never been entirely reviewed after the division into 32 species groups proposed by d’Orbigny in 1913, although subsequent researches focusing on some of these species suggested that Onthophagus constituted a nonmonophyletic taxon. In order to highlight their phylogenetic relationships, the various Afrotropical species groups of d’Orbigny must thus be examined, and it would be advisable to study them separately to avoid misunderstanding. In this framework, the taxonomic position of the three species currently included in the 21st d’Orbigny group was examined. Both morphological and biomolecular analyses contributed in confirming that these species (i.e., Onthophagus caffrarius d’Orbigny, 1902; Onthophagus quadraticeps Harold, 1867; and Onthophagus signatus Fåhraeus, 1857) constituted a well-defined monophyletic group that cannot be maintained within the genus Onthophagus. Therefore, the Kurtops gen.n. is here described to accommodate these Afrotropical species, that are nevertheless always included within the Onthophagini tribe. On the basis of the phylogenetic relationships here elucidated, it was also emphasized that the new genus is strictly related to Digitonthophagus and Phalops; thus, it was proposed to include the three genera into a single clade of suprageneric rank naming it as Phalops complex.


Onthophagus New genus Phalops complex Molecular analysis Morphological analysis Phylogeny Geometric morphometrics 



The research was partly funded by the Italian Ministero dell’Istruzione, dell’Università e della Ricerca (MIUR). The iconographic material was produced using the facilities of the Laboratory of Geometric Morphometrics at the Department of Life Sciences and Systems Biology of Torino, equipped thanks to the funds from the CRT Foundation, Research and Education section (Torino, Italy). We are grateful to museum curators and private collectors for the loan of the material. We want also to thank J. Willers (ZMHB, Berlin, Germany) and M. Balke (ZSM, Munich, Germany) for useful information about the type material. We are greatly indebted to the two anonymous reviewers who contributed to improving our manuscript with many useful suggestions. We thank also our colleague Dan Chamberlain that made a thorough revision of the English text.

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Copyright information

© Gesellschaft für Biologische Systematik 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Life Sciences and Systems BiologyUniversity of TurinTurinItaly

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