Gymnopleurus sturmi (Mediterranean Dung Beetle / Akdeniz Dışkı Böceği)

Gymnopleurus sturmi (Mediterranean Dung Beetle / Akdeniz Dışkı Böceği)

Gymnopleurus sturmi (Mediterranean Dung Beetle / Akdeniz Dışkı Böceği) from Ceyhan, Adana - 05.04.2008.

Dung beetles (scarabs) are beetles (family Scarabaeidae, order Coleoptera) which feed partly or exclusively on feces. The antennas are distinctly clubbed, the club consisting of several flaps which can be opened out to form a fan. The jaws are not visible from above. Many dung beetles, known as rollers, are noted for rolling dung into spherical balls, which are used as a food source or brooding chambers. Other dung beetles, known as tunnellers, bury the dung wherever they find it. A third group, the dwellers neither roll nor burrow: they simply live in manure. The size of a dung beetle varies from species to species (in here these beetles are approx. 1 cm). The "dwellers" are usually small and elongate. Dung beetles are basically black, brown or purplish yellow in color; some are of metallic luster, especially the tropical species. Most dung beetles have a flattened, but stout body. The male of some species has horns at the head or thorax. Some dung beetles, other than the "dwellers", have strong, often "toothed" legs specialised for rolling dung and burrowing.

Dung beetles live in many different habitats, including desert, farmland, forest, and grasslands. They do not like extremely cold or dry weather. They occur on all continents except Antarctica.

Dung beetles eat dung excreted by herbivores and omnivores, and prefer that produced by the former. Many of them also feed on mushrooms and decaying leaves and fruits. They do not need to eat or drink anything else because the dung provides all the necessary nutrients. The larvae feed on the undigested plant fiber in the dung, while the adults do not eat solid food at all. Instead they use their mouthparts to squeeze and suck the juice from the manure, a liquid full of micro-organisms and other nutrients (as well as the body fluids from some unlucky animals such as dung-feeding maggots that sometimes get trapped between their mandibles).

Most dung beetles search for dung with the aid of their strong sense of smell. Some of the smaller species, however, simply attach themselves to the dung-providers to wait for their reward. After capturing the dung, a dung beetle will roll it, following a straight line despite all obstacles. Sometimes dung beetles will try to steal the dung ball of another beetle, so the dung beetles have to move rapidly away from a dung pile once they have rolled their ball to prevent it from being stolen. In 2003, researchers found that a species of dung beetle navigates by using polarization patterns in moonlight. The species in question is the African Scarabaeus zambesianus. The discovery is the first proof that any animal can use polarized moonlight for orientation.

The "rollers" roll and bury a dung ball either for food storage or for making a brooding ball. In the latter case, two beetles, one male and one female, will be seen around the dung ball during the rolling process. Usually it is the male that rolls the ball, with the female hitch-hiking or simply following behind. In some cases the male and the female roll together. When a spot with soft soil is found, they stop and bury the dung ball. They will then mate underground. After the mating, both or one of them will prepare the brooding ball. When the ball is finished, the female lays eggs inside it, a form of mass provisioning. Some species do not leave after this stage, but remain to safeguard their offspring.

The dung beetle goes through a complete metamorphosis. The larvae live in brood balls made with dung prepared by their parents. During the larval stage the beetle feeds on the dung surrounding it.

The behaviour of the beetles was much misunderstood, until the pioneering studies of Jean Henri Fabre. For example, Fabre corrected the myth that a dung beetle would seek aid from other dung beetles when confronted by obstacles.

Ps. The total body length of these Dung Beetles are aprrox. 1 cm :).

References: 1. Wikipedia . 2. Chinery, M. (1986). Collins Guide to the Insects of Britain and Western Europe, Collins, Glasgow, 320 pp.