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African Dung Beetle Fact File

Appearance

The African dung beetle has an all black body. Like all beetles the body is segmented in to three sections with the head at the front, the thorax in the middle and the abdomen at the back.

Their is a total of six legs with three on each side. On the front legs are a series of four spikes extending outward.

On the head they have a series of ridges. A pair of antennae extend out from the head and have a club like end.

An average African dung beetles body will measure 5mm (0.2in) long.

Diet

As their name suggests the African dung beetle feeds on dung. They will roll the dung of many animals in to balls which are then buried. These balls of dung provide food to the young with the eggs being laid in the balls.

The dung balls which they roll may be as much as 50 times the weight of the beetle rolling it.

Adults will also feed on the dung. Primarily they feed on the liquid component of this dung and they have specialized mouthparts for sucking this.

Dung beetles are part of the ecosystem helping to return nutrients to the soil and removing large amounts of dung from the ground. They also help to move seeds around and to make new plants grow.

african dung beetle

Scientific Name

Scarabaeus satyrus

Conservation Status

Not Evaluated

Length

5mm (0.2in)

Diet

Dung

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Range

Africa is the native home of the African dung beetle. The exact range of this particular species has not been mapped but most records come from the South of the continent.

Dung beetles are found on all continents except Antarctica.

Habitat

They make their home on the savanna.

Reproduction

The egg of an African dung beetle will be deposited in a ball of dung which has been dug in to the ground.

When the beetle hatches it will feed on the dung and then enter a pupa (similar to a butterflies cocoon) before they emerge above ground as an adult.

Behavior

African dung beetles are nocturnal emerging at night to feed.

The African dung beetle made news when it was found that they navigate using the milky walk. Beetles were observed for how quickly they would walk to the edge of a circle while able to see the sky and then observed again with their view of the sky blocked. To provide this block they used special hats.

To prove they were only using the milky way they were taken to the Johannesburg Planetarium where they were only shown the milky way and could still navigate.

Many thousands of dung beetles will gather at the site of a popular type of dung such as that of elephants.

african dung beetle

Quick facts

African dung beetles are one of the 8,000 dung beetle species found around the planet.

Some species of dung beetle were considered sacred by the ancient Egyptians.

Dung beetles are nicknamed tumblebugs.

Scientists have used dung beetles to help track endangered mammals. By identifying the dung in the stomachs of African dung beetles they can locate if a rare mammal was recently in that area.

Photo Credits

Under License

References

Martin, R., Bryan, K., Cooper, D. and Bond, S., n.d. The Animal Book. Lonely Planet.

Eol.org. 2021. Scarabaeus Satyrus Boheman 1860-Encyclopedia Of Life. [online] Available at: <https://eol.org/pages/14103> [Accessed 12 January 2021].

Milky Way shows beetles the light. Nature 493, 580 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1038/493580c

Animals.sandiegozoo.org. 2021. Dung Beetle | San Diego Zoo Animals & Plants. [online] Available at: <https://animals.sandiegozoo.org/animals/dung-beetle> [Accessed 12 January 2021].

Sibuya Game Reserve. 2021. Dung Beetle – Sibuya Game Reserve. [online] Available at: <https://www.sibuya.co.za/2018/03/26/dung-beetle/> [Accessed 12 January 2021].

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