Plant Tricks Dung Beetles With Smelly Seeds

Posted on October 11, 2015

C. argentum seed compared to a bontebok pellet

A plant named Ceratocaryum argenteum (Restionaceae) has specialized seeds that trick dung beetles into burying them. The seeds are large brown and round. They are also smelly which attracts the dung beetles.

The dung beetles are attracted to the scent the seeds. They then roll the seeds away and bury them. The seeds provide no benefit to the dung beetles who work hard to bury them. The scientists call it fecal mimicry and say it is a "remarkable example of deception in plant seed dispersal."

The image above shows the similarity between the C. argenteum seed and a dung pellet. The seeds are pictured on the top of the image and a dung beetle and a bontebok pellet are on the bottom. A bontebok is a type of antelope that lives in South Africa and Lesotho.

The paper on the plant and its tricky seeds can be found here in Nature. Take a look:

Image: Nature