The Loh Down On Science

Beetle Juice

 And now--a whole new take on beetle boots!

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with The Loh Down on Science.

While studying dung beetles, researchers in South Africa recently noticed something interesting. On very hot days, the beetles climbed to the top of their dung balls about seven times more often than usual. While atop the ball, the insects stuck their front feet into the dung, presumably to cool off? They also regurgitated a liquid onto their legs, perhaps to speed the cooling process further.

To test this hypothesis, the scientists outfitted some of the beetles with teeny silicone boots. This shielded their front legs from the sun. Turns out the insects wearing beetle boots climbed their dung balls far less often than beetles without boots. They also spit up less.

The scientists conclude that this peculiar practice was indeed protecting the beetles from heat exhaustion. So the dung balls are their food and thermoregulation.

It's just like how, in summer, we take our shoes off and stick our feet into our ice cream. No, it isn't. Who would do that? A dung beetle!

The Loh Down on Science is produced by LDOS Media Lab, with 89.3 KPCC Pasadena, California. And made possible by the generous support of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

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