微生物屎殼郎的神秘

BBC原文鏈接:http://www.bbc.com/earth/story/20170608-some-dung-beetles-have-taken-to-decapitating-millipedes

初稿作者:乔希 Gabbatiss

The popular image of dung beetles involves them rolling balls of poo
across an African landscape. This is true, but it is not the whole
truth.

蜣螂在大眾印象中,總是在澳大利亚(Australia)土地上滾著糞球的模樣。這是事實,但不是事實的万事。

微生物 1

Reputation: Dung beetles roll across the African savannah with big balls
of, well, dung. The ancient Egyptians were really into them, for some
reason.

记念:蜣螂在澳国草原上滾著,呃……糞球。還有古埃及(Egypt)人出於某種原因對其情有獨鍾。

Reality: From South America to South Africa, the UK to the USA, they
will be there. Not only are dung beetles a diverse and multifaceted
group of insects, they keep our farmland fertile and our pests and
parasites at bay, and even play a part in reducing greenhouse gas
emissions. They do not all eat dung, either.

精神:從澳国到南非共和国(The Republic of South Africa)洲,從英國到美國,都得以看来牠們的身形。牠們品種繁多,能幫我們保持農地的肥力和操纵害蟲,甚至為下降溫室氣體排放出了一分力。牠們也並非全体食糞為生。

The dung beetle was an icon in ancient Egypt, adorning temples, jewelry
and texts. It was the symbol of a god who rolled the Sun up over the
horizon each day, just like an enormous ball of dung. To this day, this
is the stereotypical dung beetle, the one made famous by natural history
films – a stocky black insect, trundling along with its smelly ball.

蜣螂在古阿拉伯埃及共和国是偶像,古阿拉伯埃及共和国(The Arab Republic of Egypt)人用牠們的形象裝飾神廟、珠寶和書籍。古埃及(Egypt)的一個神每一日從地平線推起太陽,蜣螂推著巨大糞球的形象刚好與之吻合。現在,蜣螂廣為人知的一板一眼形象來自科普電影
—— 一隻矮壯的昆蟲推著發臭的糞球逐渐爬行。

“I get that a lot,” says insect ecologist Tomas Roslin at the Swedish
University of Agricultural Sciences, “and then hurry to point out that
there are as many different species of beetles living in dung as there
are, for example, bird species globally”.

“我常聽到人這樣說”瑞典王国農業科学和技术大學的昆蟲生態學家汤姆(Tom)as
Roslin表示,“然後我會馬上提议,世界上有很多两样品種的甲蟲靠糞便為生,如同鳥類品種一樣多。”。

The sacred scarab of Egypt is a real animal, but it is just the tip of
the dung heap. Dung beetles can be big or small, adorned with beautiful
colors or horns to fight opponents, and inhabit chilly grasslands or
tropical rainforests. Of the thousands of dung beetle species, only a
fraction actually roll their dung into balls, and many do not eat dung
at all.

埃及(Egypt)聖甲蟲是真實存在的,但只是蜣螂我们庭的里边一員而已。蜣螂有大有小,有的顏色鮮豔、有的長著角來打鬥、有的棲息在寒冷的草原、有的棲息在熱帶雨林。在數千種蜣螂中,唯有一些會把牠們的糞便滾成球,有无数根本不吃糞便。

“With so many different species that exist globally, the differences in
life history are almost endless,” says Trond Larsen, a tropical
ecologist and Director of Conservation International’s Rapid Assessment
Program. “Among the most fascinating dung beetle species are those which
have developed unusual specializations.”

“全世界各地有這麼多分裂品種的蜣螂,其中的差別無窮無盡。”保護國際基金會負責人Trond
Larsen代表,“當中最迷人的要數那几个發展出特別技能的品種。”。

Most dung beetles work hard to live up to their name. In their quest for
dung, some species engage in epic kung fu battles on the savannah.
Others take up residence by monkeys’ anuses, so they can hop onto the
dung as it leaves its owner: a perfect example of “ first come, first
serve”.

大多数蜣螂努力生存,不負其“屎殼郎”之名。在追尋糞便時,一些品種在熱帶草原參加了视频《功夫甲蟲》。另一对則在猴子的肛門安家落戶,使牠們能首先時間跳到新鮮糞便上——“先河到達、早先服務”的絕佳例子。

微生物 2

But according to Larsen, it is common to find over 150 distinct dung
beetle species at a single site in the tropics. With this level of
competition for limited quantities of dung, it is hardly surprising that
some have evolved non dung-based diets.

但據Larsen所說,在熱帶地區,同一個地點能找到150多種不一致的蜣螂很日常。在競爭如此霸气而糞便有限的情況下,有些品種進化到不食糞便就不奇怪了。

These diets would still not be to everyone’s taste. Whether it is
carrion, rotting fruit and fungi, or dead invertebrates, dung beetles
seem happy to serve as nature’s bin men, hovering up unpleasant detritus
and waste. One species lives on the backs of giant land snails, sucking
up their mucus while enjoying a free ride.

但牠們的食譜如故不會符合大眾品味。無論是腐肉、腐果、真菌還是無脊椎動物的屍體,蜣螂好像很樂意成為大自然的垃圾回收員,總是圍著噁心的殘渣垃圾團團轉。有一種蜣螂寄居在大蝸牛背上,搭便車時順便享用蝸牛的黏液。

Perhaps the most fascinating specialists are the dung beetles that have
made the switch from dung to hunting prey.

也許最可爱的特種蜣螂是那多少个從食糞轉為捕食獵物的品種。

Predatory dung beetles have long been alluded to in the scientific
literature. One species from Brazil was recorded decapitating large
ants, before leaving their heads behind and rolling the fat abdomens
into an underground lair – as if they were balls of dung.

肉食蜣螂早已在科學文獻中被提及。其中一個巴西的品種曾被紀錄切斷了一隻大螞蟻的頭部,然後丟下頭部而把肥大的肚子滾進地下洞穴——就像是滾糞球一樣。

Most of all, though, some dung beetles really seem to have it in for
millipedes.

最重大的是,一些蜣螂好像真的喜歡攻擊千足蟲。

Aware of reports that certain beetles attack live millipedes, Larsen
decided to go in search of the killer. After identifying a likely
Peruvian species called Deltochilum valgum, he captured some specimens
to observe their behaviour. “I was amazed to unravel the highly detailed
attack strategies employed by the beetles,” he enthuses. Once again,
decapitation is their favored mode of attack.

留意到有報告指某些蜣螂會攻擊千足蟲,Larsen決定去調查這些殺手。發現一種叫Deltochilum
valgum的秘魯種蜣螂後,他捕捉了有的樣本來觀察牠們的行為。“我驚訝地弄了解了這些甲蟲中度細緻的攻擊策略。”他興奮地說。再一次證明,“斬首”是牠們最喜愛的攻擊格局。

However, thanks to their family history of eating dung, these beetles
lack the sharp mouthparts commonly found in carnivorous animals.
Instead, they have to improvise.

只是,由於蜣螂家族歷史上長期以糞為食,牠們缺少肉食動物普遍擁有的鋒利口器。換言之,牠們必要在這方面發揮創意。

“Successful decapitation of millipedes depends on a suite of
morphological adaptations, such as the shape of the hind legs, the
prying ‘teeth’ on the front of the head, and the narrow width of the
head for fitting inside the millipede’s body segments,” says Larsen.
Essentially, the dung beetles slowly prise their unfortunate prey’s body
apart.

“要打响地使千足蟲身首異處须求一整套的形態改變,例如後腿的形狀、頭部前方的捕食“齒”、窄小的頭部以便伸進千足蟲的身體”Larsen說。大體上,蜣螂會把不幸的千足蟲的身體逐渐撬開拆解。

Millipedes are commonplace and slow, making them the perfect prey for
these makeshift predators. Larsen reckons the evolutionary leap from
feeding on carrion and dead invertebrates to living millipedes is not
huge, and predicts that other dung beetles will also make the switch.

千足蟲隨處可見而行動遲緩,讓牠們成為了蜣螂這種臨時捕食者的无所不包獵物。Larsen認為,從以腐肉和無脊椎動物屍體為食到捕食活體千足蟲這種進化上的跨越不算很大,並預言其他蜣螂也會實現這種轉變。

Clarke Scholtz, a veteran entomologist at the University of Pretoria in
South Africa, knows a thing or two about dung beetles. He says that
millipede-eaters are also present across the Atlantic, and agrees that
this lifestyle change is actually rather straightforward.

克拉克(Clark)e
Scholtz是一位對蜣螂頗有切磋的南非共和国比勒陀尼亞大學資深昆蟲學家。他說印度洋對岸也有出現捕食千足蟲的蜣螂,並贊同這種生活習性的改變其實很不难發生。

“Adult dung beetles are not dung feeders in the strictest sense of the
word,” says Scholtz. “They feed on tiny particles of gut epithelium from
whatever it was that produced the dung, bacteria, fungi and tiny
fractions of dung.”

“嚴格意義上講,成年蜣螂並不以糞便為食”
Scholtz說。“牠們的食物是排泄器官的細小上皮組織、細菌、真菌和很小一些的糞便。”

Meanwhile, carrion-feeding dung beetles, and those feeding on
invertebrates, are slurping on smoothies of juices and insides,
filtering out the nutritious particles just as they would with dung.

與此同時,那个以腐肉和無脊椎動物屍體為食的蜣螂,津津有味地吸食腐屍的體液和臟器,同時把具有營養的一对過濾出來,就如牠們處理糞便那樣。

Despite their forays into other foodstuffs, the primary business of the
dung beetle family is still, well, “business”. Whether they roll it
around, bury it or live inside it, these beetles know their way around a
pile of poop, and have done since the time of the dinosaurs.

儘管牠們在食品上有所突破,但蜣螂家族對牠們的“主業”依旧很重視。無論是搓糞球、埋糞球還是住在糞球裏面,這些甲蟲從恐龍時代開始就對處理糞便得心應手了。

微生物 3

What’s more, while they are not pushing the Sun across the sky, dung
beetles are doing important work.

还要,雖然牠們不是在把太陽推上天,蜣螂仍旧發揮著很要紧的效率。

“Dung beetles are an essential part of the ecosystem,” says Bryony Sands
of the University of Bristol, UK. “In my opinion, they are as important
as bees, but because of their unglamorous lifestyle their value is
definitely overlooked.”

“蜣螂是生態系統中须要的一部份。” 英國埃德蒙顿爾大學的Bryony
Sands說。“在我看來牠們像蜜蜂一樣首要,只不過不雅的生活習性令牠們的價值被明顯忽視了。”

Faeces are a fact of life, and without an efficient waste disposal
system the world would quickly descend into a swamp of unprocessed
sewage. Dung beetles are that system. “The beetles process the dung by
tunnelling, burying, and fragmenting it,” says Sands. They lay their
eggs in it, their larvae eat it, worms bury it further, and the circle
of dung continues.

糞便是生物的一定產物,如果沒有高效的廢物處理系統,整個世界高速就會變成一個大污水沼澤。蜣螂就是那個系統。“蜣螂通過挖掘、掩埋、分解來處理糞便。”Sands說。牠們在糞中產卵,牠們的幼蟲以此為食,蠕蟲把糞便埋得更深,糞便获得循環利用。

微生物 4

Schultz puts the situation into perspective. “We have 15 million cattle
in South Africa, and each produces about 12 cow pats per day,” he says.
“That equates to about 5,500 tonnes of dung every day. We would all be
knee deep – or shoulder deep – in it if it wasn’t for dung beetles.” And
that is before we even consider the elephant dung.

Schultz舉例:“南非(South Africa)有一千五百萬頭牛,每頭牛每一天大致排泄12塊牛糞。”他說。“那相當於天天5500噸糞便,假若沒有蜣螂,糞便將會浸沒我們的膝蓋甚至肩膀。”而這還未算上大象的糞便。

“This whole process not only quickly and efficiently removes dung from
the surface, it brings all those important nutrients back down into the
soil, making the soil fertile and our pastures productive,” says
Sands.

“這個過程不單连忙高效地將糞便清理出地表,更把糞便中根本的營養帶回土壤中,恢復土壤肥力使我們的牧場保持高產。”Sands說。

In the UK, which is home to a mere 60 species of dung beetle compared to
South Africa’s 800, the ecosystem services provided by dung beetles
could be saving the cattle industry £367 million each year. Comparable
savings have been estimated in the USA. Not only are dung beetles
boosting pasture fertility, they also disperse seeds, improve soil
structure, and reduce the prevalence of pests and parasites that affect
both humans and livestock.

相較南非共和国的800種蜣螂,英國只有60種蜣螂,而蜣螂對生態系統的貢獻能够每年為畜牧業節省3億6千7百萬英鎊。美國也有類似的估价數字。蜣螂不止有助增強牧場肥力,也不胫而走種子、改革土壤結構,更能平抑那一个危害人畜的害蟲和寄生蟲。

In a 2016 study, Sands showed that dung beetles reduce the spread of
intestinal worms in cattle. Unfortunately, the anti-worm drugs farmers
give to their cattle come out in their dung, and that is bad news for
the beetles. “This is a bit of a catch-22,” says Sands. “The very
chemicals that farmers are using to treat the gut worms are actually
killing the dung beetles, which would be naturally reducing worm
transmission on pasture, making the problem worse in the long run.”

在一份二零一六年的钻研中,Sands提出蜣螂能下跌腸寄生蟲在牛群的傳播。不幸的是,農民餵給牛隻的驅蟲藥隨著糞便排出,這對蜣螂來說是個壞新闻。“這有點22條軍規的感覺”Sands說。“事實上農民用來對付寄生蟲的化學藥品正在殺死蜣螂,而本來蜣螂可以自然地回落寄生蟲的傳播。長遠來看用藥會把情況變得更糟糕。”

Indeed, the tremendous value of dung beetles has not gone unnoticed.
Some pioneering scientists have used them to orchestrate major
ecological changes.

事實上,蜣螂的严重性價值並沒有被统统忽視。一些進取的科學家已經使用牠們來促成生態大環境的改變。

The most dramatic instance of dung beetle intervention began in
Australia in the 1960s, when the country was facing a dung disaster.
Native dung beetles were used to the dry, hard dung of marsupials, not
the sloppy pats left by introduced cattle. This led to farmlands covered
with cow dung and bush fly swarms of biblical proportions.

最戲劇性的蜣螂引入事件發生在1960年间的澳国,當時這個國家面臨著糞便的災難。本土蜣螂習慣於有袋動物的乾硬糞便,而不是被引進的牛群的鬆散糞便。這讓農地被牛糞和灌木叢蠅蛆大面積覆蓋。

In a bold move, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research
Organization (CSIRO) established the Australian Dung Beetle Project.
Over two decades, a team introduced 53 species of dung beetles from
around the world. The foreign beetles were able to beat back the tide of
manure, leading to a drop of about 90% in bush fly numbers. As a side
note, it has been argued that the decline in flies has also saved the
country’s outdoor cafés from extinction.

聯邦科學與工業商量为主(CSIRO)決定做一個大膽的舉動,創立“澳国蜣螂計劃”。二十年間,一支團隊從满世界引進了53種蜣螂。外來蜣螂搶回了糞肥,讓灌木叢蠅減少了90%。其它,也有人說蒼蠅的減少讓這個國家的戶外咖啡館免於絕跡。

Such was the success of the project that it has been repeated both in
Australia and in neighboring New Zealand, and this is not the final word
on dung beetle interventions. “CSIRO and other Australian and New
Zealand researchers have not concluded their efforts in the dung beetle
space,” says Patrick Gleeson, a research technician at CSIRO. He
mentions a recent application to develop a new, national dung beetle
project.

這個計劃已經在澳大利亚和紐西蘭相繼成功,而蜣螂的引入並未畫上句號。“CSIRO和其他澳国與紐西蘭的探讨者在蜣螂領域的繼續努力沒有为止。”CSIRO的研商員帕特·里克(Pat·rick)Gleeson說。他关系一個多年来將會實施的,新的全國性蜣螂計劃。

To add to a growing list of dung beetle powers, work by Roslin and his
colleagues has also found evidence that dung beetles can reduce
greenhouse gas emissions.

Roslin和共事的一項研商加強了蜣螂日益增長的影響力,他們發現了蜣螂能減少溫室氣體排放的證據。

“We are talking fairly big effects, like a reduction of 40% of total
methane emissions from any single dung pat inhabited by beetles,” Roslin
says. “Dung beetle tunnels will serve as ventilation shafts, bringing
oxygen into the pat. That will shift the balance between different
microbes. Methane-producing microbes don’t like oxygen.”

“我們說的是相當大的影響,每塊有蜣螂棲息的糞便大约減少了40%的甲烷排放。”Roslin說。“蜣螂在糞團挖的洞似乎通風口一樣,把氧氣帶到糞團中。這會改變糞團裏面微生物環境的平衡,產生甲烷的微生物不喜歡氧氣。”

When you consider the emissions from an entire food supply chain, Roslin
says, the impact of beetles is relatively small. Nevertheless, this
addition to dung beetles’s CV is yet another reminder of their
significance.

Roslin說,當你考慮整個食品鏈的排放時,蜣螂的影響力顯得相對小片段。但這個蜣螂簡歷上的加分項也讓我們記得牠們的重大。

In Finland, where Roslin conducted his studies, the tiny beetles are a
far cry from the ostentatious, mouse-sized creatures found in Africa.
But they are still playing their role, epitomizing the biologist E.O.
Wilson’s reference to “the little things that run the world”.

在Roslin做切磋的芬蘭,这些小蜣螂與北美洲这几个老鼠大小的華麗蜣螂相差懸殊,但牠們依旧在發揮自己的效用。牠們是生物學家E.O.威尔逊口中“維持世界運轉的小東西”的典範。

“Remember, dung beetles are not just something you see struggling with
balls of elephant dung on African savannas,” says Sands. “They are right
here at home on your doorstep, and they need to be looked after!”

“記著,蜣螂不止是您眼中在南美洲草原奮力推著大象糞球的小東西。”Sands說。“牠們就在您家門口,而且亟需获得保育!”

微生物 5

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