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Thread: Food collecting behavior of dung beetles (the rollers)

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    Default Food collecting behavior of dung beetles (the rollers)

    Part: 1
    Dung beetle has fascinated humans for thousands of years- including the Egyptians who incorrectly believed that the beetles reproduced from male only. But their observation that the beetles’ ball rolling is influenced by the sun is accurate and could be the first recorded accounts of animal behavior. [1]

    My experience on these two beetles from Scarabaeinae subfamily under the family Scarabaeidae shows nothing exception of the behavior studied approximately 5,500 years past. Almost, all the beetles under this particular subfamily are known to feed on dung and thereby is collectively called Dung Beetles. Now, the question comes why they practice such vulgar habit. My field study on their food collecting behavior has not any clues to the right answers. Though, when I start finding causes behind their ball rolling I come across many astounding facts. A little point behind their feeding on poops would not be incoherent. Dung beetles like feeding more on poops of the herbivorous animals than that of the carnivorous animals because most of the herbivorous poops are fertile with many undigested ingredients which would appease the hunger of these poor creatures [4]. From my personal experience I find rabbits feeding on their own poops directly from/out of their anus. Though the excrements of the omnivores may be more palatable [4].

    Not all the members of Scarabaeinae use to roll their food items. A great number of them use to make tunnel directly beneath the dung source and make their nest underground (called the ‘Tunnelers’) and some of them like the dung source as its domicile (called the ‘Dwellers’). The image I attach here show another kind of dung beetle whose common English name is influenced with their food collecting behavior of rolling poops (‘food’ from their perspective) to their favorite place; these are the ‘Rollers’.

    When I encountered them rolling under a mid-day sun I became spellbound thinking how these little creatures study nature to decrease their labor in carrying something by giving a round shape. In student life, like as all, I read how ancient people study a round stone fall fast and deep than those not round in shape or the rolling of round logs from hilltop and how those lessons made them invent wheels which led the civilization many steps ahead towards modernization. If we take these beetles activity in account from their appearance in this planet (though many anatomical and behavioral changes would have followed) it might be possible to human beings studying their food rolling patterns as a practical instance of the benefits of round shape in the field of transportation behind the grand invention of wheels dates almost back to the late Neolithic age[3], at about 10,000 years past, whereas the evolution of dung beetles occurs at about 115 to 130 million years ago in the Lower Cretaceous period[2].

    This is not the only similarity found between these rollers and the human beings. Carrying a huge dung ball is not always an easy task. To decrease labor, alike giving it a round shape, they also use to follow almost straight line from the source of the dung to their favorite place and thereby travel possible shortest distance. To measure the distance by a planned map or straight line is not an easy work for such little fellows. To ensure it, as the ancient Egyptians discovered, they study celestial bodies like as the sun (in day) and the moon (at night) and make them their compasses. Even some of them use Milky Way in doing so [1]. The instances of studying such natural bodies to get direction may not exceptional in nature but it makes me greatly astonished when I recollect my habit of getting direction studying my watch and the position of the sun many a time at the time of field-work and thereby copy a part of their tact born years ago in an unconscious mind.

    I found them midway and the process of rolling or transportation last roughly for just forty seconds within when they covered approximately eighty centimeters of distance. At the near end of their destination I found them lifting the ball against a plant-part. For doing so- making a ball of dung which is sometimes heavier than their own weight- rolling that and lifting- they have evolved with strong legs.

    At first I found them comparatively on a fresh and clean ground rolling their ball. Almost in one second I noticed them covering a distance of approximately two centimeters.
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    Last edited by Mrudul Godbole; 05-10-2016 at 01:33 PM.

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