The Mighty Dung Beetle
In a recent post I mentioned the food chain and the African cleanup crew after an apex predator has captured its prey. There is a less celebrated member of the crew that is often overlooked. Yet it performs a very noble and necessary task. The Dung Beetle is responsible for cleanup of all that second-hand bodily waste lying around the floor of the earth. It cleans up the poo, typically that from herbivores.
Dung Beetles have a very keen sense of smell and are attracted to fresh feces. The African Dung Beetle will collect the dung and form it into a ball which he will roll in a straight line, often with the female attached, to a spot where she will lay her eggs. Dung Beetles always rolls their dung balls in a straight line, navigating by the sun, moon and stars, even using the Milky Way dust lane for guidance. They need to move as quickly as possible away from the busy dung site to keep other Beetles from stealing their newly-formed balls, and a straight line is the most efficient way to achieve that goal.
Once they locate a spot with soft soil in which to burrow, they will dig a cavity over which they will position their prize cargo. The female will then lay her eggs inside the dung ball, also known as a brood ball. When the eggs hatch, during the larval stage, the young larvae will devour the dung, eating their way out of it. Once matured into beetles, they will go off to find their own dung and make their own families. And the cleanup cycle continues. February 2, 2017
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