Most people probably can’t name their favorite type of beetle, but for Elizabeth “Wizzie” Brown, an insect specialist with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, the question is a no-brainer: it’s the dung beetle.

A type of scarab beetle, dung beetles are divided into three categories depending on their behavior: rollers, tunnelers, and dwellers. Brown says rollers dung beetles will roll dung into a ball and bury it somewhere else. Tunnelers, by contrast, dig down into the dung and create a tunnel underneath the dung pile. Then, they’ll roll up the balls and take them down into their tunnel. Brown says they’re the smartest. Then there are the dwellers, who actually live in the dung itself.

Brown says that the beetles tend to prefer dung from herbivore animals. Some are very specific about the type of dung they will use, like some very large types of dung beetle in Africa use elephant dung because of its size.

For a quick laugh, Brown suggests searching for videos of the beetles on the Internet, since many of them try to steal balls of dung from each other.

“I find them fascinating,” Brown said. “Who knew there would be animals fighting over poo?”

Written by Rachel Zein.

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