Behold the Beautiful Dung Beetle
written by Cheryl Bardoe; illustrated by Alan Marks
2014 (Charlesbridge Publishing)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher
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Found on all of the continents except for Antarctica, the mighty dung beetle is an under appreciated model of efficiency. When an animal, such as an elephant, drops its waste, the dung beetle springs into action. Using its antennae to pick up the aroma of fresh feces, dung beetles can arrive as fast as fifteen seconds after the poop plops down. (Seriously, how did someone learn this information? Are they sitting in the tall grass with one eye on a stopwatch and another on an elephant? And don't you know that if dung beetles had smartphones, there would be an app for finding fresh dung. I would call it Poop Scoop. Available now on iTunes.) All kidding aside, dung is a serious matter for these beetles. It is the source of their food and drink. Using their jaws, dung beetles squeeze the juice out of the dung and this is their source of nutrition. This makes me feel bad for complaining about eating brussel sprouts as a kid. Attacking these dung piles are three types of dung beetles. Dwellers eat as much as they can before moving on. Rollers roll a dung lump into a sphere by eating as they roll. Tunnelers dig burrows underneath the pile of feces and store their treasure down below. Among all three groups, there are battles for territory and for mates. Eventually, the dung perpetuates the life cycle of the beetle as eggs are laid in the dung and grubs use it for food. When you consider the perseverance and ingenuity of the dung beetle, it is indeed a beautiful creature.
It would be easy to be repulsed by the work of the dung beetle, but you would be missing out on an important lesson. Everything in nature seems to have a purpose, a reason for being. Dung beetles provide a valuable service even though they are not exactly the glamorous members of the animal kingdom. Cheryl Bardoe and Alan Marks do a terrific job spotlighting the work of this fascinating insect.