Here's another in the "ten facts" series on Expiscor - this one is written by Rhodes Scholar, Entomologist, PhD Candidate (and all-around great Canadian!) Paul Manning. You can follow Paul's adventures at Oxford on his blog, or follow him on twitter.
Of all the described insects living on Earth, a staggering 40% percent are beetles. With such phenomenal diversity, it's likely that even the most insect-phobic individuals can find a species with a certain amount of appeal. One group with unquestionable charm, are dung beetles. Represented by roughly 7,000 species - dung beetles are a group that has coevolved along with large mammals, depending on a niche resource that most other organisms tend to avoid - dung.
Although dung beetles are
found throughout the world, many aren't aware of their presence. In Northern
temperate climates, dung beetles primarily exhibit endocopry - a behavior which
is characterized by beetles living a quiet life within the confines of a dung
If you take the time to examine dung during the warmer periods of the year - you're likely to find these charismatic beetles, you might even fall in love. With rounded scarab features, bumbling movement, and fascinating behavior - how could you not?
In case you're not
immediately interested in personally poking through poo, here is a collection
of ten interesting features of dung beetles. This will give
you an opportunity to fall in love with these amazing creatures from the
comfort of your own armchair. But please be forewarned, you might have find
yourself having an irresistible urge to visit 'specific habitat
1. Dung beetles
improve soil health
Animals defecate. Sharing the world with billions of livestock, and countless other large mammals - there are inordinate amounts of animal waste being produced each and every day. This waste is full of nutrients that can be lost into the atmosphere as ammonia, and washed away into water courses. Dung beetles help close this loop by directly consuming the nutrients as larvae and adults, and through mixing dung into the soil horizon. This keeps the soils healthy, the plants happy, and nutrient cycling more complete.
2. Dislike pest flies?
Thank a dung beetle for their service.
Arguably the most famous story about dung beetles was a mass exotic introduction into
3. Weird and Wonderful:
The fascinating behavior of dung beetles
It doesn't take long to dig up some weird news about dung beetles. Two Ig-Nobel awards were recently awarded to Marcus Byrne, a scientist from
New research from a dung beetle research group in
5. Ecological questions
can be answered using dung beetles as a model
Dung beetles aren't ideal organisms to study to answer all questions, but given the shared resource they depend on, and the way that is shared, they are ideal study organisms to answer certain questions of community ecology. Much of the well-known and deeply respected work by Ilkka Hanski on meta-population dynamics has focused on dung beetle systems. Dung beetles are sensitive to habitat modifications, and have been often included in studies addressing destruction, and fragmentation of tropical rain forest.
6. Ancient cultural
significance of dung beetles
Many dung beetles exhibit an interesting behavior during breeding that involves the excavation, of nests provisioned with dung. An Egyptian species Scarabaeus sacer - was an impressive symbol for ancient Egyptians. The beetle forms dung balls from cow
The fascinating behaviours of dung beetles, could have wonderful applications for engineering purposes. Take the incredible strength exhibit by large tropical rolling beetles, the design of tarses to claw and dig into the earth. Or the ability of dung beetles to move such enormous masses relative to their size. What sort of endosymbiotic microbial communities allow beetles to live in such biologically unstable conditions? The possibilities are huge!
8. Shallow Reasons: Dung
beetles are gorgeous
With 7,000 species of dung beetles found globally - there will likely be a few that some find
9. Pasture grazing is
improved by dung beetle activity
Cows are finicky grazers. They don't like to eat in any proximity to where they have previously defecated; can you blame them? This is a problem in
10. Dung beetles are a
phenomenal gateway to entomology + natural history
Exploring the wonderful world of dung beetles is as easy as the trip to your nearest