20 January 2009

Dark days for millipedes

In today's Royal Society Biology Letters is a report (dated 10 November 2007, but only just published) on deltochilum valgum – a dung beetle which has found another way.

Essentially, stripped of scientific detachment, the story is this.

There is, apparently, not enough shit in the world. Your average dung beetle in the street doesn't only have to put in a hard day's graft getting enough of the stuff, he or she has to compete for it in a seller's market. Worse still, dung beetles are not the only consumers of this valuable commodity: millipedes, amongst others, are in on the act as well.

Most dung beetles are law abiding souls and put up bravely with this dismal life: they go on getting up in the morning, diligently rolling dung, playing the game. It was good enough for their parents and grandparents, so it's good enough for them.

Deltochilum valgum, however, has decided that it can't be arsed with all this "working for a living" crap.. Instead of doing its own honest day's work for an honest day's dung, it lurks furtively down dark alleys and waits for the unsuspecting millipede to come rolling home at the end of the day with a hard won gut full of dung. Falling upon the leggy neighbour with vile oaths, Deltochilum valgum clips its head off. and eats both millipede and payload.

It all sounds depressingly like capitalism...

(Click here to view an accosted millipede)

  • Trond H. Larsen, et al, "From coprophagy to predation" in Biology letters, 2009.
    DoI 10.1098/rsbl.2008.0654