Poo puz­zle

go! - - Upfront Letters -

QJANNA FOUCHE from Rusten­burg writes: I was re­cently in a pri­vate na­ture re­serve called Sa­bie Park, where I saw this cu­ri­ous heap of dung. It was still fresh and had a fine tex­ture. I looked around and could only find gi­raffe spoor nearby, but this isn’t gi­raffe dung is it?

AWildlife ex­pert LD VAN ESSEN says: This is prob­a­bly gi­raffe dung, which has been worked on by a dung beetle. Dung bee­tles are in­ter­est­ing crea­tures, of­ten over­looked by the pub­lic. There are about 800 species out there, and not all of them are the kinds that roll dung balls around. Some dig tun­nels un­der­neath drop­pings to bury the dung, some lay their eggs in dung and some steal dung balls from their more in­dus­tri­ous cousins. Some species only use her­bi­vore dung, oth­ers pre­fer the dung of car­ni­vores or om­ni­vores, and some will change their pref­er­ence when dung is scarce. Some even eat rot­ten plant ma­te­rial and mush­rooms. Read­ers should re­frain from driv­ing over an­i­mal drop­pings for the sake of th­ese lesser-known dung bee­tles, all of which per­form an im­por­tant eco­log­i­cal func­tion.

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