The mighty T-rex may be long gone, but descendents of its lowly pooper-scooper, the dung beetle, are alive and well and still telling tales.
By Eddy Von Mueller, Emory Magazine
An iridescent beetle, bright as a bead, has caught a whiff of
paradise. She makes a beeline for a pile of fresh manure, high as a hill
to her, recently left behind by
a Maiasaurus striding through the
rookery on some motherly errand.
It’s a noisy place, this. The herd is a big one, and there are
hundreds of nests here. Adult animals rumble, or possibly honk or hiss
as they jostle each other. Some of the nests are already full of broken
eggshells and little Maiasaurs bawling to be fed.
The beetle takes no more notice of the clamoring dinosaurs than they
do of her. She has family matters of her own to attend to. She’s a dung
beetle, and, the risk of getting stepped on notwithstanding, hanging
around a bunch of nine-meter-long herbivores the size of SUVs means
living very large. She burrows eagerly into the heap.
Later, burrows and their chiropteran hardihood will help her
million-times-great-grandchildren survive the asteroid impact that will
doom Maiasaura and most of her kind
Later, her descendants will be digging
into the dung of
proto-elephants on the savannahs where an ape will stand, starting no
end of trouble.
Later, pyramids will rise, and the civilization that erects them will
fall, having ironically put the humble dung beetle, the scarab, at the
very center of their cosmology.
For now, a “now” seventy-five million years ago, this beetle will lay
her eggs inside the tunnel she’s made, and seal it snugly behind her
when she leaves, ensuring that the larva will
be secure in a chamber
literally made of food. “It’s dinner and a nursery,” notes
Martin, professor of practice in the Department of
Environmental Studies in Emory
College of Arts and Sciences and the
of a new book, Dinosaurs without Bones.
It is coprolites, or fossilized dinosaur dung, that allow us to reconstruct the heartwarming domestic scene described above. Martin's book collects and describes these and scores of other fascinating finds that he and his fellow trackers are using to glean surprisingly intimate insights into how dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures moved, healed, hunted, ate and excreted.
Read the whole article in Emory Magazine.
Bringing to life Dinosaurs without Bones