Haldane was referring to the fact that there are nearly half a million beetle species known on Earth. Having been an avid beetle collector since I was a small boy, I can say I share a certain fondness for the insects.

The diversity of beetles on our planet is amazing, and their behaviors and life histories are just as varied. Nowhere is this more evident than in beetles that dine upon carrion. I find carrion beetles not only wonderfully diverse, but also emblematic of natural cycles of birth and death, the focus of my latest book,Life Everlasting.

As a scientist, I worked for years on the behavior of ravens, the ultimate carcass-disposal specialists, so I was not particularly mindful of the roles beetles play in the recycling process. While large scavengers, such as ravens, eagles, wolves, and coyotes, quickly dispose of animal carcasses in snowy Northern Hemisphere forests, insects take the recycling lead in summer. One group in particular, the burying beetles, or nicrophorines, bury whole carcasses to create an underground smorgasbord for their larvae.

 

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