Rare European Dung Beetle Found Living in Cow Poop

A dung beetle is easy enough to picture: a squat, shiny little bug determinedly pushing its smelly treasure homeward. We picture them rolling their balls of dung across burning Egyptian sands, or under a hedge in the grasslands of Kenya. But a European dung beetle? That’s a little harder to imagine. 

It shouldn’t be. Dung beetles live on every continent except Antarctica. They’re literally all over the place, tidying up after larger animals from China to Peru. There are more than 100 species of dung beetle in the UK alone. 

Sally-Ann Spence hopes to find them all. Spence is a researcher with the Dung Beetle UK Mapping Project, or DUMP (probably not an accident). The goal of DUMP is to create an enormous database of information on UK dung beetles. The beetles have enormous value, and not just to scientists; dung beetles save UK cattle ranchers an estimated £367 million ($550 million USD) each year. All their burrowing into the ground aerates the soil, which lets rainwater and nutrients seep in. 

Spence and her colleagues volunteer their own time to conduct the research—research that often involves combing through cow pies. “We have become connoisseurs of fine dung,” Spence told the BBC. “[We’re] not adverse [sic] to feeling the texture or giving it a good sniff—you can tell a lot about an animal’s health by its dung—we will examine it meticulously for beetles." 

It was during one of these examinations that Spence found Aphodius affinis. Spence was on the island of Jersey for another research project and decided to do a little poking around. The reward for her curiosity was a single specimen of A. affinis, a beetle so small it could fit on the tip of a pinky. 

The beetle is the first of its kind ever spotted on the island, a fact that excited local entomologists. Roger Long is chairman of the Société Jersiaise’s entomology section. “Dung beetles are very important to the health of cattle herds and the meadows they feed in,” he told the Jersey Evening Post. “If we had no dung beetles, fields would be knee-deep in cattle dung.” 

Want to learn more? Follow #dungathon on Twitter. 

Mark Ralston, AFP/Getty Images
How a Hairdresser Found a Way to Fight Oil Spills With Hair Clippings
Mark Ralston, AFP/Getty Images
Mark Ralston, AFP/Getty Images

The Exxon Valdez oil tanker made global news in 1989 when it dumped millions of gallons of crude oil into the waters off Alaska's coast. As experts were figuring out the best ways to handle the ecological disaster, a hairdresser from Alabama named Phil McCroy was tinkering with ideas of his own. His solution, a stocking stuffed with hair clippings, was an early version of a clean-up method that's used at real oil spill sites today, according to Vox.

Hair booms are sock-like tubes stuffed with recycled hair, fur, and wool clippings. Hair naturally soaks up oil; most of the time it's sebum, an oil secreted from our sebaceous glands, but it will attract crude oil as well. When hair booms are dragged through waters slicked with oil, they sop up all of that pollution in a way that's gentle on the environment.

The same properties that make hair a great clean-up tool at spills are also what make animals vulnerable. Marine life that depends on clean fur to stay warm can die if their coats are stained with oil that's hard to wash off. Footage of an otter covered in oil was actually what inspired Phil McCroy to come up with his hair-based invention.

Check out the full story from Vox in the video below.

[h/t Vox]

A New Chew Toy Will Help Your Dog Brush Its Own Teeth

Few pet owners are willing to sit down and brush their pet's teeth on a regular basis. (Most of us can barely convince ourselves to floss our own teeth, after all.) Even fewer pets are willing to sit calmly and let it happen. But pet dental care matters: I’ve personally spent more than $1000 in the last few years dealing with the fact that my cat’s teeth are rotting out of her head.

For dog owners struggling to brush poor Fido’s teeth, there’s a slightly better option. Bristly, a product currently being funded on Kickstarter, is a chew toy that acts as a toothbrush. The rubber stick, which can be slathered with doggie toothpaste, is outfitted with bristles that brush your dog’s teeth as it plays.

A French bulldog chews on a Bristly toy.

Designed so your dog can use it without you lifting a finger, it’s shaped like a little pogo stick, with a flattened base that allows dogs to stabilize it with their paws as they hack at the bristled stick with their teeth. The bristles are coated in a meat flavoring to encourage dogs to chew.

An estimated 80 percent of dogs over the age of 3 have some kind of dental disease, so the chances that your dog could use some extra dental attention is very high. In addition to staving off expensive vet bills, brushing your dog's teeth can improve their smelly breath.

Bristly comes in three sizes as well as in a heavy-duty version made for dogs who are prone to ripping through anything they can get their jaws around. A Bristly stick costs $29 and is scheduled to start shipping in October. Get it here.


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