It’s the insects which rules the savannah


IT is believed that the number of species of insects is between six to ten million which enable them to occupy 90 percent of all animals which inhabit the whole world. Approximately, a farmer planting maize in Handeni or rice in Mbeya is surrounded by more than 200,000,000 different insects which out numbers other animals on Earth.

Insects are invertebrate animals which are found among Arthropod a group of creatures with unique ability of living in different environments even where others avoid staying in.

In simple explanation tropical and subtropical grasslands, shrublands and savannah are generally grasslands located in semi arid to semi humid climate regions of subtropical and tropical areas of the Earth.

Scientists believe that, because of these regions our planet differentiate itself from other in the entire galaxy because these portions of the Earth is the home millions of creatures. Shrub-lands are dominated by shrub vegetations, grasslands are treeless land covered by grass while a national park such as Serengeti is savannah land which is covered with grasses and scattered shrubs.

In what scientists call photosynthesis, due to their unique ability of producing own food by using light and oxygen plants are primary producer of food to all other organisms. This means instead of walking into the bush to hunt an antelope, swimming into a river for fishing or flying into the sky for a prey, plant only deep their roots into the ground for manures.

By doing this, the grasses of savannah are the main factors which are keeping herbivorous such as waterbucks, kudu, impala, African buffalo, zebra, wildebeest, Thomson’s gazelle and others in Serengeti.

Variation of supply of grasses in one part of an ecosystem automatically triggers migration of animals from an area with shortage to the one with abundance materials. In the Greater Serengeti ecosystem meteorologists say availability of rains play important role in the movement of animals but zoologists say rainfall patterns together with fertility of soil affect the whole event in both negative and positive ways.

Inside game reserves such as Selous, Ugala, Ibanda Rumanyika, Liparamba and other protected areas dung beetles in their millions perform this painstaking job for the benefit of others.

Antelopes and other herbivorous drop their dung on the surface which is dominated by natural forces such as wind which blow it away during drought and rain which wash it to the sea during wet seasons.

Without known reasons beetles in savannah of Africa have the habit of avoiding dung from carnivorous but from all parts of an area they will assemble in hundreds around droppings from an herbivorous.

These insects use their antennae to collect different air samples as they scan all area around the savannah looking for droppings from herbivorous such as gerenuk, giraffe and reedbuck.

In a day single elephant eat about 175 kilograms of food and is able to dump about 130 kilogram of dung while a medium sized herd with 10 adults having a capacity of producing 1.5 tonnes within 24 hours.

In a small national park such as Arusha which covers about 328 square kilometers, the presence of these big mammals is catastrophic. This is because within 30 days two or three herds are able to disturb the equilibrium of an ecosystem by their droppings which may pileup into several tones.

If these droppings lays on the grasses unattended for several hours, the area around will be uninhabitable to both herbivorous and carnivorous due to accumulation of flies. These include the notorious tsetse flies which feed on blood from mammals and cause different illnesses which in turn kill many animals in the savannah.

To avoid this, nature has created these beetles with special appetite on dung and it has equipped them with powerful sensory organs capable to locate their delicious treat from a distant location.

From different parts the desire for a delicious meal force tens to hundreds beetles into one location where three species compete each other without knowledge that on the other side their actions clean the savannah.

On the other hand from symposium and other conventions, when we talk of advantages of conservation of wildlife, our minds focus on big mammals such as elephants, rhinos, cheetah and lions while leaving aside reptilians, avian and arthropods.

Sometime we try to talk about protection of marine mammals such as dolphins and whales but we always put little attention to insects such as the dragonfly. From the time of creation, history shows that every specie came to perform a certain duty on the earth and once it runs out of time, nature create a special way of pushing the animal into extinction while opening door for others.

Herbivorous were brought on Earth to stop vegetations from overshadowing other creatures while carnivorous came while equipped with desire and ability to control the number of herbivorous in the savannah.

History shows that unlike any other agents of nature, through different economic activities man is becoming a powerful destructive agent of life on Earth. With medium sized body among insects, dragonflies have big and very powerful wings which enable them to fly at a top speed of 97 kilometers per hour.

Among insects this is a tremendous speed that is out of reach by many other insects because while maintaining the same pace, dragon flies are able to change their movement into six different directions.

On the other hand an adult dragonfly is able to fly incredibly at nearly 60 miles per hour or 97 kilometers per hour. Scientific researches indicate that a dragonfly can remarkably propel itself at a maximum speed of 10 to 15 meters per second with average cruising speed of about 4.5 meters per second.

At the same super speed, the dragonfly is able to glide higher, move forward or side to side on air without losing its stability due to its weight and flexibility of its wings which are attached on the thorax.

Scientists say dragonflies are gifted with powerful thorax which works efficiently with veins to supply blood and oxygen to muscles and create the required flexibility on the wings for a speedy flight.

The structure of their thorax allows the muscles which create flaps on wings to work independently from other parts of the body and create enough energy for a rapid movement on air.

While the dragonfly uses its wings mainly for flying, other tropical insects which produce sound by flapping their wing or legs, cicada are equipped with powerful voice box which can intimidate any other singer in the tropical forest.

These mysterious insects have their voice boxes on both side of the abdomen, these are Tymbals which use special muscles to contract and expand a unique process among insects to produce sound.

The Tymbals produce sound for male cicadas which sing romantic songs to attract female, to their standard these are sweetest song originating from inner most part of the voice box.

In order for a cicada to be able to produce the required sound it must contract and expand its abdomen approximately 300 to 400 times per second and the action is repeated as the male sing a beautiful song for a female partner.

Scientists say in tropical forest of Africa there are more than 450 different species with different melodies, some male are known to put their abdomen in a higher position to enable their songs to reach very far.

To avoid disappointments, while flapping their wings rhythmically some cicadas are known to direct the sound where they believe a lonely female may be wondering.

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