Only 11 seconds of fame (starts at 25s and stops with a bump at 36s), but of all the animals in Africa, David chose us, the mighty dung beetle, to lead the pack!
We bought the DVD and watched it the other day. Absolutely amazing photography and I particularly like the ‘behind the scenes’ at the end of each episode. It shows just how hard the camera crew work in making a documentary like this. It also shows how hard us dung beetles work at rolling (check out episode 5).
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.’
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.’
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.
Instead of the daily roll, I thought I’d start the day with a spot of fishing.
It was quite satisfying and very relaxing in comparison.
But did you know that I’m not the only dung beetle keen to expand on my daily dung intake with some more, let’s call it exotic dung.
A recent research project lead by Sean Whippie and Wayatt Hoback involved the team catching various dung beetle species to see which dung they preferred (the beetles that is, not the researchers). A series of pitfall traps were set up with a variety of dung delights – all you could eat herbivore, omnivore and carnivore dung, including exotic human, chimpanzee zebra, donkey, moose and waterbuck. (I wonder who volunteered for the human samples?)
Surprisingly to the human researchers (but not me), the dung beetles were particularly fond of exotic dung and showed little interest for their local dung source found in ample supply on the great plains of the North America – the bison.
After two years of playing with dung and capturing over 9,000 dung beetles, the data indicated that of the omnivore samples provided, human and chimpanzee were top of the favourites list.
But the reality is, it’s quite simple for me. Of the three options out there for us dung beetles: roll, dwell or tunnel, rolling is definitely the way to go.
Here are some good reasons to roll:
You get to play ball all day long.Not many people get a job as fun as that.
You get to spend the day in the beautiful outdoors.Tunnellers and dwellers spend time inside. Dwellers live inside the dung and tunnellers dig underground, taking their dung with them.
If you’re really hungry, you can make super dooper balls of dung like the one in the photo of me. And better still, because I’m a roller, I can easily roll it quickly away from other hungry dung beetles.The competition is always fierce. Luckily for me, my species of dung beetle is super strong. We have been observed to lift over 1,000 times our own body weight in dung, so rolling a ball as big as the picture, is easy peasey.