CSI: Natureworld The Case of Burying Beetle Bob

A CSI probe into Bob’s disappearance has revealed damning evidence linking Sam to the incident!

November 2, 2018 | | Notes from the Wild

It will be difficult for Sam the spotted salamander to deny involvement in the death of Bob, the burying beetle. A CSI probe into Bob’s disappearance has revealed damning evidence linking Sam to the incident: mites clinging to his body.

Why is this evidence significant? Bear with me. The mites found on Sam the spotted salamander, are normally found on burying beetles. They catch rides on burying beetles, as we do on taxis or buses.

Sam the Spotted Salamander before the disappearance of Bob the Burying Beetle.

You see, mites and burying beetles share the same rather distasteful quest: they both seek cadavers. Upon finding a dead critter – a mouse, a shrew, a small snake – burying beetles lay eggs on it and then, honoring their name, bury it.

They bury the body not out of respect for the deceased, but to hide it from pesky flies whose maggots would compete with their larvae for the mouldering flesh.

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  • Ah, but it’s a given that some flies will lay their eggs before the burying beetle inters the body. That’s where the mites come in. They feed on fly eggs and maggots, not on the dead critter itself. With me so far?

    So the mites and the burying beetle have a tidy arrangement. The mites, despite their eight-leggedness, have mobility issues. Riding the fast-moving burying beetles solves that problem for them. And then the mites reciprocate by killing the maggots that compete with the burying beetles’ larvae.

    Burying Beetle Bob carrying mites. Look under Bob’s second pair of legs. Click to see full size image.

    I know what you’re thinking. Get to the point! How does all this implicate Sam the salamander in the tragic disappearance of burying beetle Bob? The mites on Sam’s body are key. The prosecution in his upcoming murder trial will argue that the mites clambered off Bob and onto Sam… when Sam swallowed Bob!

    Sam the spotted salamander is being held without bail. The mites are expected to testify against him. Justice will no doubt be served.

    Sam the Spotted Salamander with mites. Photo taken with CCTV after Bob the Burying Beetle’s disappearance. Click to see full size image.

    About the Author More by Don Scallen

    Don Scallen enjoys sharing his love of nature through his writing and presentations. Check out his blog "Notes from the Wild".

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