Please send any feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org
Dung Balls Help Beetles Keep Cool
By Cassie Ryan On October 22, 2012 @ 7:12 pm In Inspiring Discoveries | No Comments
Dung beetles use their food as a mobile thermal refuge in the desert, according to a new Swedish-South African study.
The balls of dung weigh up to 50 times more than the beetles themselves, making it hard work to push them across the hot ground which can exceed temperatures of 60°C at midday.
“We stumbled upon this behavior by accident while watching for an ‘orientation dance’ which the beetles perform on top of their balls to work out where they’re going,” said study co-author Marcus Byrne at Wits University, South Africa, in a press release.
“We noticed that they climbed their balls much more often in the heat of the midday sun.”
After studying this behavior, the researchers found that the beetles only act like this when the ground is hot, climbing onto their balls seven times more often than when the ground is cool.
“Like an air conditioning unit, the moist ball is cooled by evaporative cooling,” said study co-author Jochen Smolka at Lund University, Sweden, in a press release.
“The beetles climb their cool balls whenever their front legs and their head overheat from pushing this huge dung ball across the hot South African sand.”
This was confirmed by placing silicone boots on the beetles’ front legs to protect them from the heat.
“To our great surprise, this actually worked, and beetles with boots on climbed their balls less often,” Smolka said.
When on top of their balls, the beetles preen their faces, possibly spreading regurgitated liquid onto their legs and head to cool them down even more.
The research will be published in Current Biology on Oct. 23.
The Epoch Times publishes in 35 countries and in 19 languages. Subscribe to our e-newsletter.
Copyright © 2012 Epoch Times. All rights reserved.