Sunday, October 13, 2013

Wild at Heart II: The Giant Carrion Beetle

This weekend marked the opening of Wild at Heart II, the third edition of the endangered species benefit shows co-curated by myself and Thinkspace's Andrew Hosner. 20% of the proceeds of the show will go to Born Free USA to help threatened wildlife. Though the exhibition has closed, you can still check out all the work online.

João Ruas "Necrophagous"

The American Burying Beetle, also known as the Giant Carrion Beetle, is a thumb-sized black beetle with dramatic orange-red markings. In the spring, the male searches out the carcass of a small animal such as a rat, chipmunk or dove and then tries to attract a mate. Once it has secured the attentions of a female, the two beetles work together to carry the body to a suitable place and bury the carcass several inches below ground, then lay 10-25 eggs in a subterranean chamber nearby. The mated pair stays with the eggs until the larvae hatch several days later, and then both parents tend and feed their young from the stored carrion, a behavior that is unusual amongst beetles.

The burying beetle was once common and widespread in the United States east of the Rockies, but is now rarely found outside of Oklahoma, Arkansas, South Dakota and Nebraska. Scientists speculate that disruptions in the food chain due to the loss of large predators have led to an increase of scavenger species, and consequently the scarcity of small bird and mammal carcasses has limited the burying beetle’s ability to reproduce. The burying beetle is now critically endangered and faces imminent extinction unless captive breeding and reintroduction programs succeed in pulling it back from the brink.

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