I’m not a dancing; I’m just trying to find my way home

I’ll let you in on a secret…

the little funky jig us dung beetles do on top of our dung balls isn’t really a jig at all

There are two reasons for the manoeuvre:

  • it helps cool our feet from the hot sands of Africa and
  • it helps us find our way back home

To cool your feet…

‘Put your left foot in (to the dung ball), put your left foot out.  Put your left foot in and shake it all about.’

Doug dung beetle gets stuck in a ball of dung
You put your left foot in

You see, freshly laid dung is about 30C°. When comparing the air temperature, which can easily reach about 50C°, with the sand temperature, which can easily hit 60C°, the dung ball readily becomes a refreshing slipper to cool your feet in.

Once cool enough, you can get back to your mission.

To find your way home…

‘You do the hokey pokey and you turn around. That’s what its all about.’

Doug dung beetle dances on top of his dung ball
You do the hokey pokey and you turn around

We use the sun as our guide to find our way back. Many insects, including us mighty dung beetles, can see the sun’s polarisation as the rays hit the earth. They become our map, providing a nice straight line for us to use as a path to find our way home.

If we get distracted along the way (eg: another dung beetle taking a shining to your dung ball and before you know it, you find yourself in a Dr Seuss version of a dung beetle battle) all we need to do to get back on course, is to jump up onto our dung (provided we didn’t lose the battle)!  We get a great view of the sky and this helps us find a straight line back home to our burrow.

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