Nature invented what we humans call "recycling".
If it were not for things like Carrion Beetles, the world would be full of dead animal bodies.
These guys are an integral part of cleaning up the world.
Before I proceed, I must give you an image warning.
If you are inclined to be a bit squeamish, kindly come back tomorrow.
I have to say that Google Image Search is amazing.
Today I found some large beetles feeding on the carcase of a long-dead Kangaroo.
I assumed, at first, that they were cockroaches, so I immediately thought Dave Rentz will be happy.
But on close examination of the first few images I realised they had beetle antennae. Bad luck, Dave!
(He shall have to console himself with memories of his recent "Ig Nobel Prize in Biology".)
However, back to these Beetles - what on earth are they?
I started out looking at "Brisbane Insects and Spiders" - without luck.
I then tried Nick Monaghan's "Lifeunseen"
- which has excellent photos, and is always worth a visit when tracking down an ID of an unfamiliar insect or spider. But I drew a blank there, too.
I then Googled "Carnivorous Beetles", and that told me that many beetle larvae eat flesh,
Charming! But not what I had seen - adult Beetles feeding on a carcase.
Then I saw mention of Carrion Beetles.
Refine the search to Carrion Beetles + Australia
First hit was Dave's Garden (a very wide-ranging website) with a picture of a Beetle which had been found feeding on a dead Wombat!
How Aussie is that?
It also gave me a name to search >>> Ptomaphila lacrymosa
Next step: Google Image search for that name.
The Atlas of Living Australia came through with the necessary images and descriptions to confirm I had the right ID.
- "The Silphidae adults feed in a saprophagous manner, which means they feed on decaying matter. The beetles colonize the carrion during all four stages of decomposition which are fresh, bloated, decay, and dry. The main areas of decomposition for adults are during both the bloated and decaying stages. ... " (ALA)
The ALA had a further link to CSIRO's Entomology Division's "What Bug is That?"
- "In Ptomaphila the elytra are provided with short, longitudinal ridges and tubercles and completely conceal the abdomen...."
- el·y·tron noun, plural -tra
- one of the pair of hardened forewings of certain insects, as beetles, forming a protective covering for the posterior or flight wings.
- Also called wing case, wing cover.
Here is the clearest (and cleanest) image.
The lumps (tubercules - as we now know to call them) are clearly obvious.
|Carrion Beetle (Ptomaphila lacrymosa)|
|(Ptomaphila lacrymosa) - on the leg of a Kangaroo carcase|
|Two Beetles actively feeding (head down) (Ptomaphila lacrymosa)|
|(Ptomaphila lacrymosa) going for a walk along the bare bone|
|More Carrion Beetles actively feeding (Ptomaphila lacrymosa) |
|Close-up of a Carrion Beetle (Ptomaphila lacrymosa)|
Nature is not always pretty, but it is all necessary, one way or the other.
Fungi break down trees into material plants can use as soil nutrients.
Insects play their part in that decomposition process, too.