The strongest insect in the world – the Dung beetle plays a key role in the African ecosystem, cleaning up the mess others leave behind by recycling nutrients, improving soil structure and encouraging new growth.
The strongest is the male onthophagus taurus, which can pull 1,141 times its own body weight! The equivalent of a person pulling six double-decker buses full of people.
They eat the excrement of herbivores, as it contains more plant nutrients, however the waste of omnivores is easier to find due to the smell. Dung beetles have six legs to help them dig, collect and roll dung. They’re even built like superheros, with a grooved shield and strong front limbs for digging and fighting. They also have their wings folded under hard covers for protection.
This romantic beetle is ready to fight for love. Females dig tunnels under dung pats to attract a mate. If a male enters a tunnel and finds a love rival, they will try and push each other out, with the Cephalodesmius dung beetle opting to mate for life once it finds a partner.
These intriguing creatures also make great parents. They roll dung primarily to feed their young, depositing their eggs inside, so their larvae can feast and grow. This family focus doesn’t end there. Both parents share child care duties – working together to build their nests. They then go back to work helping the African eco-system. What a hero!
5 Facts about the African dung beetle
They are the strongest insects in the world.
Dung beetles can be found on every continent except Antarctica.
Dung beetles have existed for 30 million years. Fossilised dung balls the size of tennis balls have been found from Prehistoric dung beetles.
Scientists have said they can use the Milky Way to navigate.
There are three types of dung beetle: rollers, tunnellers and dwellers. The dwellers actually live in the dung.
Despite surviving 80 million years on the planet, this shy, gentle nocturnal ant and termite hunter is running out of time.
The poaching of elephants and rhinos for their horns and tusks is widely publicised, however it is the pangolin that is believed to be the world’s most illegally trafficked mammal.
Native to Africa and Asia, the pangolin is hunted at the rate of one every five minutes. Highly prized in Vietnam and China for both its meat and the believed medicinal benefits of its scales, the pangolin is even used to make jewellery.
There are eight species of pangolin in the world, four Asian and four African – though fossil evidence suggests that they evolved in Europe. They are all now listed on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List as either Vulnerable, Endangered or Critically Endangered.
A global trade ban was introduced in 2016 and the pangolin has a dedicated awareness day in February each year. In addition, Prince William, Duke of Cambridge in his role as Head of United for Wildlife, has thrown his weight behind the plight of the pangolin in a bid to halt the trade for good.
Despite this global spotlight the pangolin’s numbers continue to diminish.
The UK government is hosting an international conference to tackle the illegal wildlife trade. The conference in October this year, will see global leaders join forces to discuss the illegal wildlife trade and how they can better protect the world’s most iconic species from the threat of extinction.
Let’s hope it is in time to save this beautiful creature.
5 Facts about Pangolin
Pangolin scales are made of keratin, just like our finger nails, and make up 20 per cent of their body weight.
The word ‘pangolin’ comes from the Malay word ‘penggulung’, which means ‘one that rolls up’. When it is threatened a pangolin will curl itself into a tight ball, which is impenetrable to its natural predators. Sadly this doesn’t include human predators.
The mammal can consume up to 20,000 ants a day. That’s about 73 million ants a year!
Pangolins can close their ears and nostrils using strong muscles. This helps protect them from ant attacks.
They have long, sticky tongues, which are often longer than their body. They also don’t have teeth, so can’t chew. Instead, they have keratinous spines in their stomach and swallow stones that help them grind up their food.
Click here to find out more about the race to save the pangolin.
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