Meet the Beetle
I suspect that many of you expected to find pictures of dermestid beetles here. They are really great workers when it comes to cleaning up skeletons. But since Boxcavations focuses primarily on burials of critters, I have chosen the Burying Beetle (a.k.a. the Carrion Beetle, genus Nicrophorus) as the mascot for Boxcavations.
As one of their common names implies, Carrion Beetles have a penchant for carrion, or dead stuff. Put that together with their other common name, and you get a basic idea of what these guys are all about: they bury dead stuff.
But they don't bury dead stuff to get it out of your way. Or because they're gross. They do it because dead stuff, especially small things like mice or small birds, provides a really great package of nutrients--nutrients that can be used to raise baby Burying Beetles! So what they do is bury whatever dead thing they've discovered in a shallow grave, and then lay their eggs in the fur or feathers of the hapless dead thing. When the eggs hatch, they've got a veritable smorgasbord of food waiting for them!
OK. I suppose it does sound a little gross. But just think of it as a form of recycling.....
There's a nice web page about burying beetles hosted here:
Full reference for a neat article about burying beetles:
Milne, L. R. and M. Milne (1976). "The social behavior of burying beetles." Scientific American 235: 24-89.