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.
Elephant dung is an especially good place to find them.
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)