Dung beetles and dung, new research

This video says about itself:

African Dung Beetle

15 October 2007

Sacred to ancient Egyptians, these beetles recycle – of all things – dung.

From Ecological Entomology:

Herbivore dung as food for dung beetles: elementary coprology for entomologists


Article first published online: 22 APRIL 2016

1. How do dung beetles and their larvae manage to subsist on herbivore dung consisting of plant remains that are at least partly indigestible, mixed with various metabolic waste products? To clarify what is known and not known about this basic aspect of dung beetle biology, the present review summarises information on dung composition and discusses the feeding of beetles (food: fresh dung) and larvae (food: older dung) in relation to this information.

2. There is 70–85% water in typical fresh dung, and undigested lignocellulose or ‘fibre’ constitutes about 70% of the organic matter which also contains 1.5–3% N. About 75% of this is ‘metabolic faecal nitrogen’, mostly associated with dead and alive microbial biomass. As all essential amino acids and cholesterol are probably present, additional synthesis by microbial symbionts may not be needed by the beetles.

3. Beetles minimise the intake of lignocellulose by filtering fibre particles out of their food which is probably microbial biomass/debris with much smaller particle size. Excess fluid may be squeezed out of this material by the mandibles before ingestion.

4. All larvae are bulk feeders and unable to filtrate, but little is known about the composition of their food, i.e. older dung in pats or underground brood masses. Larvae in dung pats may depend on easily digestible dung components, probably microbial biomass, whereas the nutritional ecology of larvae in brood masses is still not understood. Unravelling the composition of their food might answer some of the so far unanswered questions.

10 thoughts on “Dung beetles and dung, new research

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