|Copyright: Natley Prinsloo (Mamagolo2)
|Date Taken: 2010-12-30|
|Exposure: f/5.6, 1/320 seconds|
|More Photo Info: [view]|
|Photo Version: Original Version|
|Date Submitted: 2010-12-30 11:15|
|[Note Guidelines] Photographer's Note|
|Today was a steaming hot day in Phalaborwa but also a very long day as this time of the year most of our colleagues are on leave and that leaves the office with just a skeleton staff which is OK as it is very quite. Of course I took my camera and walked around the offices to see if I could find anything interesting to photograph. I came upon a big heap of elephant dung right in front of the MDís office and what I saw reminded me of a new years eve ball because Iíve never seen so many dung beetles together trying to each get their little balls rolling. They all looked like they had little masks on as some even had some dung smeared over the faces.|
Hope you enjoy this one and I would like to wish you all a fantastic, healthy and prosperous 2011.
God Bless you all.
Dung beetles are beetles that feed partly or exclusively on feces. All of these species belong to the superfamily Scarabaeoidea; most of them to the subfamilies Scarabaeinae and Aphodiinae of the family Scarabaeidae. This beetle can also be referred to as the scarab beetle. As most species of Scarabaeinae feed exclusively on feces, that subfamily is often dubbed true dung beetles. There are dung-feeding beetles which belong to other families, such as the Geotrupidae (the earth-boring dung beetle). The Scarabaeinae alone comprises more than 5,000 species.
Many dung beetles, known as rollers, are noted for rolling dung into spherical balls, which are used as a food source or brooding chambers. Other dung beetles, known as tunnelers, bury the dung wherever they find it. A third group, the dwellers, neither roll nor burrow: they simply live in manure. They are often attracted by the dung burrowing owls collect.
Ecology and behavior
Dung beetles live in many different habitats, including desert, farmland, forest, and grasslands. They do not prefer extremely cold or dry weather. They are found on all continents except Antarctica.
Dung beetles eat dung excreted by herbivores and omnivores, and prefer that produced by the former. Many of them also feed on mushroomsand decaying leaves and fruits. One type living in South America, Deltochilum valgum, is a carnivore preying upon Millipedes. Those that eat dung do not need to eat or drink anything else, because the dung provides all the necessary nutrients.
Most dung beetles search for dung using their sensitive sense of smell. Some of the smaller species simply attach themselves to the dung-providers to wait for their reward. After capturing the dung, a dung beetle will roll it, following a straight line despite all obstacles. Sometimes dung beetles will try to steal the dung ball of another beetle, so the dung beetles have to move rapidly away from a dung pile once they have rolled their ball to prevent it from being stolen. Dung beetles can roll up to 50 times their weight. Male Onthophagus taurus can pull 1,141 times their own body weight: the equivalent of an average person pulling six double-decker buses full of people. In 2003, researchers found that one species of dung beetle (the African Scarabaeus zambesianus) navigates by using polarization patterns in moonlight. The discovery is the first proof that any animal can use polarized moonlight for orientation.
The "rollers" roll and bury a dung ball either for food storage or for making a brooding ball. In the latter case, two beetles, one male and one female, will be seen around the dung ball during the rolling process. Usually it is the male that rolls the ball, with the female hitch-hiking or simply following behind. In some cases the male and the female roll together. When a spot with soft soil is found, they stop and bury the dung ball. They will then mateunderground. After the mating, both or one of them will prepare the brooding ball. When the ball is finished, the female lays eggs inside it, a form of mass provisioning. Some species do not leave after this stage, but remain to safeguard their offspring.
The dung beetle goes through a complete metamorphosis. The larvae live in brood balls made with dung prepared by their parents. During the larval stage the beetle feeds on the dung surrounding it.
The behavior of the beetles was much misunderstood until the pioneering studies of Jean Henri Fabre. For example, Fabre corrected the myth that a dung beetle would seek aid from other dung beetles when confronted by obstacles. By painstaking observations and experiments, he found that the seeming helpers were in fact robbers awaiting an opportunity to steal the roller's food source:
Benefits and uses
Dung beetles play a remarkable role in agriculture. By burying and consuming dung, they improve nutrient recycling and soil structure. They also protect livestock, such as cattle, by removing the dung which, if left, could provide habitat for pests such as flies. Therefore, many countries have introduced the creature for the benefit of animal husbandry. In developing countries, the beetle is especially important as an adjunct for improving standards of hygiene. The American Institute of Biological Sciences reports that dung beetles save the United Statescattle industry an estimated US$380 million annually through burying above-ground livestock faeces.
In Australia, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) commissioned the Australian Dung Beetle Project(1965-1985) which, led by Dr. George Bornemissza, sought to introduce species of dung beetle from South Africa and Europe. The successful introduction of 23 species was made, most notably Onthophagus gazella and Euoniticellus intermedius, which have resulted in the improvement of the quality and fertility of Australian cattle pastures, along with a reduction in the population of pestilent bush flies by around 90 percent.
An application has been made by Landcare Research to import up to 11 species of dung beetle into New Zealand. As well as improving pasture soils the Dung Beetle Release Strategy Group say that it result in a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from the agricultural sector.
Like many other insects, the (dried) dung beetle, called qianglang (蜣蜋) in Chinese, is used in Chinese herbal medicine. It is recorded in the "Insect section" (蟲部) of the Compendium of Materia Medica, where it is recommended for the cure of 10 diseases.
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