DUNG BEETLES OF KENYA -Competition

In nature, pretty much everything is reused and recycled – even dung. There are species of beetles that use dung as a prime source of food and a place to lay their eggs. I’m Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet, presented by the American Museum of Natural History. It’s rainy season now at Lake Naivasha in Kenya’s Rift Valley, a season which brings a burst of activity to this region, particularly for one of its primary insect scavengers – the dung beetle.

“During the rainy season, when the dung beetles are out there in force, there’s a nice competition for this dung.”

Tony Cook is with the University of Leicester in England, and a principal investigator at the Earthwatch Institute.

“Believe it or not, beetles actually compete for dung, which sounds amazing, but they do. And you can get 40, 50, even more species on one site, all feeding, apparently, on the same resource. So apart from the conservation interests and their importance in the community, they also present this fascinating problem of how so many species live together, apparently utilizing the same resource and living a similar sort of life-style. And one way in which they do this is probably by disposing of their dung or getting their dung and using it in different ways so they — some roll it right away from the dung pile and bury it elsewhere; some will bury it on site; they will go directly beneath the dung pile. But I think burying dung is a way of getting the resource out of the way of other competitors and keeping it to yourself. And there are even beetles called Kleptocophrids which steal dung from other beetles, so they incorporate themselves into the dung balls these beetles make and then when the dung is buried, they will feed on it with the beetle that buried it. So there are a great variety of strategies for getting your share of the resource.”

Pulse of the Planet is presented by the American Museum of Natural History. Additional funding for this series has been provided by the National Science Foundation. I’m Jim Metzner.

DUNG BEETLES OF KENYA -Competition

Rainy season in this part of Kenya marks the start of a period of hard work for an important insect scavenger.
Air Date:10/13/1998
Scientist:
Transcript:

In nature, pretty much everything is reused and recycled - even dung. There are species of beetles that use dung as a prime source of food and a place to lay their eggs. I'm Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet, presented by the American Museum of Natural History. It's rainy season now at Lake Naivasha in Kenya's Rift Valley, a season which brings a burst of activity to this region, particularly for one of its primary insect scavengers - the dung beetle.

"During the rainy season, when the dung beetles are out there in force, there's a nice competition for this dung."

Tony Cook is with the University of Leicester in England, and a principal investigator at the Earthwatch Institute.

"Believe it or not, beetles actually compete for dung, which sounds amazing, but they do. And you can get 40, 50, even more species on one site, all feeding, apparently, on the same resource. So apart from the conservation interests and their importance in the community, they also present this fascinating problem of how so many species live together, apparently utilizing the same resource and living a similar sort of life-style. And one way in which they do this is probably by disposing of their dung or getting their dung and using it in different ways so they -- some roll it right away from the dung pile and bury it elsewhere; some will bury it on site; they will go directly beneath the dung pile. But I think burying dung is a way of getting the resource out of the way of other competitors and keeping it to yourself. And there are even beetles called Kleptocophrids which steal dung from other beetles, so they incorporate themselves into the dung balls these beetles make and then when the dung is buried, they will feed on it with the beetle that buried it. So there are a great variety of strategies for getting your share of the resource."

Pulse of the Planet is presented by the American Museum of Natural History. Additional funding for this series has been provided by the National Science Foundation. I'm Jim Metzner.