Thinking About Dung Beetles?

Southern red-billed hornbill (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

13 November 2022

The southern red-billed hornbill (Tockus rufirostris) eats many things but dung beetles and their larvae are at the top of the menu.

Dung beetle with a ball of dung, Manyoni Private Game Reserve, South Africa (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Elephant dung is an especially good place to find them.

Southern red-billed hornbill looking for … (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

A 2016 study discovered that dung beetles evolved in association with dinosaurs, the ancestors of birds. Beetles were already eating living plants so when flowering plants (angiosperms) sprung up and dinosaurs began eating them, dung beetles evolved to scavenge plant matter found in dung.

However most of the dinosaurs went extinct and their bird ancestors don’t produce dung, so the dung beetles changed their focus to megafauna mammal poop. Elephant dung!

Apparently dung beetles will even fight over it.

So now it’s come full circle. A living dinosaur eats the dung beetles.

(photos from Wikimedia Commons; click on the captions to see the originals, videos embedded from YouTube)

2 thoughts on “Thinking About Dung Beetles?

  1. Dung beetles are found in the southern US. I have a video of them rolling balls of horse manure on Cumberland Island, GA. We’ve also seen them in Texas.

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