It's a Ball of Poop

Do dung beetles play ball? Not exactly.

All over the world, dung beetles do a really important clean-up job. They eat the droppings of plant-eating animals, such as cows, sheep, zebras, and even elephants.

Eating dung may sound strange, but dung is mostly undigested food. It's filled with nutritious seeds and pieces of plants and fruit. Dung beetles use the sharp, toothlike edges on their legs and heads to cut off a piece they like. They have to work fast—there are lots of beetles that want some dung. To keep a piece for themselves, they often shape it into a ball and roll the ball away to bury and eat it in a safe place.

At mating time, a female beetle may ride on top of the ball as the male pushes. After they've buried the ball and mated underground, the female lays a single egg on top. That way her baby will have plenty of good dung to eat when it hatches.

Yum!

Vocabulary

dung:
The droppings of animals.

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Activity

  1. Is a dung ball made up of solids or liquids?
    [anno: A dung ball is made of solids.]
  2. What things make up the mixture in a dung ball?
    [anno: A dung ball is made of undigested food, such as seeds and pieces of plants and fruit.]
  3. How do dung beetles separate this mixture?
    [anno: Dung beetles separate this mixture by eating small parts of it.]
  4. Why are dung beetles important?
    [anno: Dung beetles are important because they clean up animal droppings.]