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In this sweeping history of more than 3000 years, beginning with Ancient Egypt, scientist Marcus Byrne and writer Helen Lunn capture the diversity of dung beetles and their unique behaviour patterns. Dung beetles' fortunes have followed the shifts from a world dominated by a religion that symbolically incorporated them into some of its key concepts of rebirth, to a world in which science has largely separated itself from religion and alchemy. With over 6000 species found throughout the world, these unassuming but remarkable creatures are fundamental to some of humanity's most cherished beliefs and have been ever present in religion, art, literature, science and the environment. They are at the centre of current gene research, play an important role in keeping our planet healthy, and some nocturnal dung beetles have been found to navigate by the starry skies. Outlining the development of science from the point of view of the humble dung beetle is what makes this charming story of immense interest to general readers and entomologists alike.
Chapter One When the dung beetle wore golden shoes
Chapter Two Crawling out of the darkness
Chapter Three Joining the dots
Chapter Four Colonising insects
Chapter Five Of elephants and dung beetles
Chapter Six Tribes with human attributes
Chapter Seven Design construction first
Conclusion: `What a wonderful world'
Marcus Byrne is Professor in the School of Animal, Plant and Environmental Science at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. He has studied dung beetles for more than 30 years. Helen Lunn has a PhD in Musicology and has a wide research base. She has worked in both academic and popular writing environments.
"A brilliant and funny tour through mythology, evolution and the day-to-day innovations of scientific research [...] this is an entomological page-turner . 'If there were no dung beetles,' Byrne and Lunn write, 'there might have been no human race [...] They literally change the earth beneath us.' This book reveals that earthly transformation in fascinating and lucid detail."
– Bruce Beasley, professor of English at Western Washington University and award-winning poet
"Biology and history dance with the scarabs in this beautiful book with its wide-ranging perspectives on our changing understanding and appreciation of these marvellous creatures."
– Jane Carruthers, Carson fellow and emeritus professor and environmental historian at the University of South Africa
"[...] Dance of the Dung Beetles shows the delightful and charming side of the dung beetle enthusiast [...] scientifically rigorous and highly readable!"
– Sandra Swart, Professor of History, University of Stellenbosch