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Dung beetles use their dung ball as a mobile thermal refuge

Smolka, Jochen LU ; Baird, Emily LU ; Byrne, Marcus; el Jundi, Basil LU ; Warrant, Eric LU and Dacke, Marie LU (2012) In Current Biology 22(20). p.863-864
Abstract
At midday, surface temperatures in the desert often exceed 60°C. To be active at this time, animals need extraordinary behavioural or physiological adaptations. Desert ants, for instance, spend up to 75% of their foraging time cooling down on elevated thermal refuges such as grass stalks [1]. Ball-rolling dung beetles work under similar thermal conditions in South African savannahs. After landing at a fresh dung pile, a beetle quickly forms a dung ball and rolls it away in a straight line, head down, walking backwards [2]. Earlier studies have shown that some dung beetles maintain an elevated body temperature to gain a competitive advantage [3], [4] and [5], and that heat shunting may prevent overheating during flight [6] and [7]. However,... (More)
At midday, surface temperatures in the desert often exceed 60°C. To be active at this time, animals need extraordinary behavioural or physiological adaptations. Desert ants, for instance, spend up to 75% of their foraging time cooling down on elevated thermal refuges such as grass stalks [1]. Ball-rolling dung beetles work under similar thermal conditions in South African savannahs. After landing at a fresh dung pile, a beetle quickly forms a dung ball and rolls it away in a straight line, head down, walking backwards [2]. Earlier studies have shown that some dung beetles maintain an elevated body temperature to gain a competitive advantage [3], [4] and [5], and that heat shunting may prevent overheating during flight [6] and [7]. However, we know little about the behavioural strategies beetles might employ to mitigate heat stress while rolling their dung balls. Using infrared thermography and behavioural experiments, we show here that dung beetles use their dung ball as a mobile thermal refuge onto which they climb to cool down while rolling across hot soil. We further demonstrate that the moist ball functions not only as a portable platform, but also as a heat sink, which effectively cools the beetle as it rolls or climbs onto it. (Less)
Please use this url to cite or link to this publication:
author
organization
publishing date
type
Contribution to journal
publication status
published
subject
keywords
Dung beetles, thermoregulation, thermal refuge, Scarabeidae, Scarabaeinae
in
Current Biology
volume
22
issue
20
pages
863 - 864
publisher
Elsevier
external identifiers
  • wos:000311882600006
  • scopus:84867831802
ISSN
1879-0445
DOI
10.1016/j.cub.2012.08.057
language
English
LU publication?
yes
id
d9ff0078-ba95-488b-a5a8-fefe464465ed (old id 3132015)
date added to LUP
2012-10-29 12:24:22
date last changed
2017-01-01 04:05:41
@article{d9ff0078-ba95-488b-a5a8-fefe464465ed,
  abstract     = {At midday, surface temperatures in the desert often exceed 60°C. To be active at this time, animals need extraordinary behavioural or physiological adaptations. Desert ants, for instance, spend up to 75% of their foraging time cooling down on elevated thermal refuges such as grass stalks [1]. Ball-rolling dung beetles work under similar thermal conditions in South African savannahs. After landing at a fresh dung pile, a beetle quickly forms a dung ball and rolls it away in a straight line, head down, walking backwards [2]. Earlier studies have shown that some dung beetles maintain an elevated body temperature to gain a competitive advantage [3], [4] and [5], and that heat shunting may prevent overheating during flight [6] and [7]. However, we know little about the behavioural strategies beetles might employ to mitigate heat stress while rolling their dung balls. Using infrared thermography and behavioural experiments, we show here that dung beetles use their dung ball as a mobile thermal refuge onto which they climb to cool down while rolling across hot soil. We further demonstrate that the moist ball functions not only as a portable platform, but also as a heat sink, which effectively cools the beetle as it rolls or climbs onto it.},
  author       = {Smolka, Jochen and Baird, Emily and Byrne, Marcus and el Jundi, Basil and Warrant, Eric and Dacke, Marie},
  issn         = {1879-0445},
  keyword      = {Dung beetles,thermoregulation,thermal refuge,Scarabeidae,Scarabaeinae},
  language     = {eng},
  number       = {20},
  pages        = {863--864},
  publisher    = {Elsevier},
  series       = {Current Biology},
  title        = {Dung beetles use their dung ball as a mobile thermal refuge},
  url          = {http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2012.08.057},
  volume       = {22},
  year         = {2012},
}