Oh, Shit.....the Dung Beetle

September 23, 2010

Shit..is not a dirty word in Nature. It’s as much a part of the environment as a beautiful flower, and has a lot of uses in the ecosystem. Traditionally, we’ve always used dried cowdung (politely called cowpats) as fuel, and my aunts used to consider the dung of temple elephants as a curative for cracks in the feet. “Panchakavyam” or the five products of a cow, included its dung, for medicinal and ritual purposes.

Often dung provides a fertile material to nourish other life forms, such as this mushroom growing out of elephant dung:

mushroom on elephant dung 220910

Nothing typifies the role of dung as a nurturing material, though, as much as the wonderful activities of the

Dung Beetle

We got the opportunity to watch one when we were driving back from the home stay in Chik Yelchetti; since Girish said he had seen something, we stopped the car and I immediately recognized the beetle:

dung beetle 1 220910 bandipur

It was riveting to watch the little insect rolling the dung ball industriously along: dung beetle 2 220910 Ravi told us that it takes the beetle half an hour or an hour to make the ball of dung, and then it begins rolling it along: dung beetle 4 220910 bandipur It's amazing, too, that the beetle is rolling along the ball with its back legs, and it's actually travelling in reverse...so counter-intuitive for us human beings! Here's a short video of the action: For naturalists, too, shit (or scat or dung or faeces or whatever it's called) has its uses. While we were walking, Ravi, our guide at the home-stay in Bandipur, identified this Fox scat, and looked at it carefully for pointers to its recent diet: fox scat 220910 bandipur In Daroji, too, Samad Kottur had showed us bear scat, and also showed us undigested parts of beetles which gave a clue to both the bears' diet and to the other insects found in the region.

So…poop is quite interesting and useful in Nature! :)