A member of the Scarab family, this remarkable beetle cleans up the dung on all of earth’s continents except Antarctica. There are thousands of different species of dung beetles; here we’ll focus on the African.
In the plains of the Serengeti where millions of mammals live, there is a large amount of dung. If the dung didn’t get cleaned up, it would prohibit the grasses from growing, which would curtail the mammals’ feeding. This beetle cleans up the dung, utilizes it thoroughly, and keeps the grass growing, the mammals grazing. In addition, the removal of the dung keeps flies from over-breeding, and replenishes the earth with dung fertilizer.
Neateuchus proboscideus are about an inch long. They quickly roll the dry dung ball away (speed is important, the competition is fierce) and bury it. Once their sweet stash is secure, the female lays her eggs in it where the larvae are protected and entirely nourished.
This is another one of those incredible species that moves material immensely larger than itself (250 times larger in some cases). Appearing to look upside down, the beetle places its back two legs on the dung, and with the front two legs on the ground pushes the ball forward.
To read more about dung beetles, click here. An interesting new finding I read in Wikipedia about dung beetles: they are the only known insect to navigate and orient themselves using the Milky Way.
A star-following dung-eating beetle who keeps the Serengeti pristine and can move debris 250 times larger than itself. I’d say that’s one amazing creature.
Photo credit: Athena Alexander