The Dung King

by | October 31, 2016

What goes around comes around.

A Gaur had grazed grass along River Denwa meadows, early noon it had browsed a few shrubs before rest, later it nibbled a few Indian Ebony fruits in the evening and decided to spend the night near the grasslands where elephant rides take place. Here it spat a pile of dung while grazing in darkness. The next morning I came for a walk with guests, after a hundred steps we arrived at the Gaur dung which began to crumble and saw dung bits wriggling too. Our eyes picked a ball as big a Ping-Pong ball rolling away, behind this hard and moist ball was a beetle pushing it upside down.

We watched and wondered how it navigated itself while rolling a ball possibly 4 or 5 times or even more than its own weight; Swedish researcher Marie Dacke investigates with various experiments on an African Dung beetle that they used Milky way galaxy to navigate on straight lines from the pile. Some dungies have other mechanisms of navigation depending on species and what dung they take on…Yes, some are choosy about the dung! They prefer the doings of an herbivore since they offer nutrient-rich dung with delicious vegetable matter, some beetles may not touch any other herbivore’s droppings if dedicated to a particular one. Imagine a horse walking into our forests and dutifully taking a dump, the dung beetles might not touch it at all. Even a lowly creature can choose!

Another pile of dung close by sat pensively, but under this cake a busy dung beetle equipped with a shovel on the head and axes on its thorax drilled a tunnel. Not all dung beetles roll their dung, some Geotrupes like this one drilled a tunnel to save itself from being mobbed by other beetles and predators and wisely it had carved chunks of dung into the tunnel and perhaps planned to lay eggs in them.

The King of the dung who rolled that piece of Gaur dung on a straight line was interrupted by my inquisitiveness. It ceased the march at once and circled the dung ball twice to check who meddled. It enthroned itself on the dung and performed a dance on its hind legs, while doing so dungies orient themselves to riddle out their bearings. Having known its northings, the King continued the roll to the edge of a meadow to find soft soil. While holding on to the ball it dug and went beneath the ball. In few minutes the ball jagged into the tunnel slowly. The good deeds of the dung beetle churned the plant material back to the soil for composting. Whatever goes around with this lowly King definitely comes around .

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