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Somewhere near you, an animal is defecating.
In fact, each day, the animal kingdom produces roughly enough dung
to match the volume of water pouring over the Victoria Falls.
So why isn't the planet covered in the stuff?
You can thank the humble dung beetle for eating up the excess.
Capable of burying 250 times their body weight in a single night,
these valiant insects make quick work of an endless stream of feces.
Over 7,000 known species of dung beetle run clean-up duty across six continents
— everywhere except Antarctica.
A dung beetle's first task is to locate dung.
Some live on the anal regions of larger animals,
ready to leap off when they defecate.
Others sniff out feces that animals leave behind.
A pile of elephant dung can attract 4,000 beetles in 15 minutes.
So once a beetle finds dung,
it must work quickly to secure some of the bounty for itself.
Most dung beetle species fall into one of three main groups:
rollers,
tunnelers,
and dwellers.
Dung rollers sculpt a ball of dung, and using their back legs,
quickly roll it away from competitors.
Potential partners jump on the ball,
and once the ball-maker has selected their mate,
the pair dig their dung ball into the soil.
Once it's been buried, the female lays a single egg within the dung ball.
Tunnelers have a different approach.
Digging underneath a pat, some drag dung down into the soil
and pack it into clumps known as brood balls,
dung balls,
or dung“sausages,”depending on their shape and size.
Male tunnelers sport a spectacular array of horns
to fight each other for control of these tunnels,
which they then defend until the female's laid her egg.
Some male tunnelers avoid the fray by masquerading as hornless females
and sneaking into tunnels to mate while the guardians' heads are turned.
The third group of dung beetles, dwellers,
take the most straightforward approach,
laying their eggs directly into a dung pat.
This makes their offspring more vulnerable to predation
than those of the tunnelers and rollers.
As the larvae feed, they riddle the dung pat with tunnels,
leaving remains that are quickly colonized by bacteria and fungi and weathered away.
Inside a tunnel, ball, or pat, once the larvae hatch,
they consume the dung before metamorphosing into a pupa
and then an adult beetle.
Besides clearing dung, the actions of these beetles
have considerable ecological importance.
For one, they serve as secondary seed dispersers.
Dung from monkeys,
wild pigs,
and other animals is riddled with seeds from the fruits they eat.
When beetles bury their dung balls,
they inadvertently protect these seeds from predators
and increase the likelihood they'll germinate.
The advantage is so great that one South African plant
has evolved to produce seeds that look and smell like dung
to trick beetles into burying them.
Dung beetles also play important roles in agricultural systems.
Livestock, like cows and sheep, produce huge amounts of dung,
which contains nutrients that can benefit plants.
The beetles break up the dung and tunnel it deep into the soil,
bringing the nutrients into close contact with plant roots.
Their services to farmers have been valued at $380 million a year in the US
and £367 million a year in the UK.
Dung beetles can even help us battle global warming
by reducing greenhouse gas emissions associated with farming.
Microbes living in oxygen-poor livestock dung
produce methane, a potent greenhouse gas.
But beetles oxygenate pats when they tunnel into them,
preventing the microbes from producing methane.
The dung beetle spreads seeds,
helps farmers,
and fights climate change
— and accomplishes it all simply by doing its business.
Maybe next time you come across some dung in the forest or a field,
you'll be tempted to take a closer look.
If you want to learn more about nature's pooper-scoopers, we highly recommend "animal weapons" by Douglas J. Emlen.
This book includes more wildly fascinating facts about dung beetles and digs deep into the survival strategy of animal's around the world.
Read our full recommendation and snag a copy by visiting ed.ted.com/books. Check out the comment section to learn more.
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【TED-Ed】為什麼地球表面還沒被大便淹沒!? (Why isn't the world covered in poop? - Eleanor Slade and Paul Manning)

12550 分類 收藏
April Lu 發佈於 2018 年 7 月 16 日    April Lu 翻譯    Evangeline 審核

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地球有將近 70 億人口,除此之外還有各式各樣的動物昆蟲,這麼多的生物,每天製造出來的糞便想必也是不少...但你有想過為什麼地球到現在都還沒被這些便便給淹沒嗎?讓影片來告訴你吧!

1excess0:28
excess 作為名詞時有「超額;過剩」或是「暴行;過分行為」的意思,作為形容詞則有「過量、超額的;附加的」等意思。這個字也延伸出另一個形容詞——excessive,意思是「過度的;過分的」。
The obesity problem in the US is largely as a result of excess sugar consumption.
美國的肥胖問題被歸因於糖分的過度攝取。


*同場加映:
天氣熱好渴?可是你真的能喝那麼多水嗎?(Can You Drink Too Much Water?)


2valiant0:34
這個字有名詞和形容詞兩種詞性,作為名詞有「英勇的人;勇士」的意思,作為形容詞則是「勇敢的、英勇的」的意思。相似意思的還有 brave、courageous、bold 等形容詞。
The firefighter made a valiant attempt to run into the fire and rescue the puppy.
消防員採取了衝進火場救出小狗的英勇行動。


*同場加映:
我用數學擊敗猛龍!(How to defeat a dragon with math - Garth Sundem)


3clump1:48
clump 有很多意思,作為名詞,有「團;塊;堆」或是「叢;樹叢」的意思,作為動詞,則有「以沉重步伐行走」或是「形成一堆、一叢;使凝結成塊」的意思。
Every time I wash my hair, clumps of hair just keep falling out.
每次我洗頭的時候,都會掉一撮一撮的頭髮。


*同場加映:
為什麼太陽系是平的?(Why is the Solar System Flat?)


4inadvertently3:09
這個字是 inadvertent 的副詞,而 inadvertent 是「不注意的;非故意的」,它又是 in 加上 advertent 組成的單字,可推測出 advertent 就是 inadvertent 的相反詞,是「注意的、留心的」的意思。
Serendipity is discovering something you love inadvertently.
所謂的小確幸就是無意間發現的美好事物。


*同場加映:
伊莉莎白.羅芙托斯 (Elizabeth Loftus): 虛構的記憶 (How reliable is your memory? | Elizabeth Loftus)


5potent4:08
這個字是「強而有力的;有權有勢的;有影響力的」的形容詞,除此之外,形容效果時,這個字也有「強效的;有效能的」的意思,或是「味道濃烈的;強烈的」的意思。
Temptation comes in many forms, often so potent that it seems impossible to resist.
誘惑萬千,且時常強烈得讓人無法抵抗。


*同場加映:
我與我的自閉症 (My Autism and Me)


原來小小隻、不起眼的糞金龜竟然是拯救地球免於便便災難的最大功臣!下次在路上看到糞金龜在辛勤工作時,小 V 絕對會在心裡向牠們深深致敬的!

文 / Stephanie Hsu

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