To zoologists, they are nature’s great recyclers, the 5,000 or so species that feed on faeces and maintain the ecological balance of the deserts, farmlands, forests and grasslands of the world. However, this may be about to change, as a younger generation of dung beetle tell their parents they ‘are not eating that shit’.
The generation gap has truly struck in the Scarabaeoidea world. Older dung beetles point out that millions of generations before them have been happy to eat shit and they are lucky not to have to eat or drink anything else, because the dung provides all the necessary nutrients. Young dung beetles, however, are not listening.
‘My mum keeps on how there’s so many different kinds of shit,’ said an Onthophagus gazella in Kenya’s Masai Mara. ‘Lion shit, zebra shit, elephant shit, rhino shit … well I don’t care, it’s all basically shit. Why should I put up with this shit because everyone else did? It’s just like Nazi Germany. I imagine.’
Religious leaders have tried to comfort any dung beetles who don’t like the taste of shit, saying that their role on Earth is ordained by God as a way of keeping the circle of life going. However, in today’s more open society, even lower order animals are wondering if the creator of the entire universe really would have such a warped sense of humour.
Mother dung beetles increasingly feel trapped between their demanding offspring and conservative older dung beetles. ‘Roller’ species of dung beetle have long derided the ‘tunnellers’ as stupid and ‘dwellers’ as plain lazy. Now they are turning their wrath on their great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandchildren.
‘When I was a youngster two months ago, living in a steaming puddle of hippo urine, omnivore shit was a treat to relieve a monotonous diet of decaying leaves and passing millipedes,’ said an old Euoniticellus intermedius. ‘We didn’t have two turds to rub together. And now these little shits are even turning their feelers up at fresh leopard shit. That’s seriously good shit that is. Shit.’