Biology: Undertakers of nature

Uploaded by BYUGraduateStudies on 15.04.2010

These beetles, they are a remarkable critter. Their nickname is the undertakers of nature.
You know, they traipse around, they find a dead animal -- so like a dead rodent or a
dead bird -- and then they bury it in the dirt.
Imagine, these beetles are about an inch long. So, you get a small squirrel, imagine the
size of it, so they are pretty powerful. So they’ll bury it. But if it is a rodent
-- I use mice in the lab -- they'll actually shave it. So, with their mandibles, somehow,
they take all of the hair off of it and they have these enzymes in their saliva that they
secrete over it to kind of mummify it. Then they roll it up into a ball. Then the female
will lay her eggs somewhere in the soil around the carcass.
When the larva hatch out, they go under the carcass and start feeding. The male and the
female both will eat some of the carcass and regurgitate it and feed it to the larva -- so
it sounds like a bird. The beetles will estimate how much resources
are available based on the volume of the carcass. So they lay a certain number of eggs, but
say they have a small carcass and not all those larva will be able to grow big enough.
So they will actually eat some of their larvae when they first get there so keep the brood
size down. By judging how big the carcass is and controlling
the brood size they can make sure their offspring will be able to compete once they become adults
and they are looking for more carcasses. Yeah so the larvae get big and chew up ... all
that’s left of the -- I use mice in the lab -- all that’s left when they are done
is the bones and the tail. Once they have finished everything and it’s all gone they
disperse into the soil and build their cocoons and become pupa and as adults they hatch out.
It is fascinating to watch them. It is fun to see the diversity of life that’s
out there. Like the scriptures say, it is for our enjoyment and for our pleasure. And,
if you take the opportunity to learn about it, it is really fascinating and makes you
happy and joyful.