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Friday, 22 February 2019  6:13am SA Time 
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Toktokkies

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ToktokkiesToktokkies (Family Tenebrionidae; Psammodes and related genera)

Size: Length up to 65mm.
Colour: Black or dark brown.
Habitat: More arid, warmer areas, with sandy soil and little ground cover.

These conspicuous members of the large family of darkling beetles are stout, heavy-bodied and wingless, with a tough outer casing. Their habit of knocking loudly on the ground at intervals has given their name to a children's game (knocking on front doors and then running away). The beetle makes the noise by raising its abdomen and then bringing it down on the surface of the ground several times in quick succession.

The tapping is a form of communication between both sexes. The male initiates the tapping and is answered by a receptive female. After a prolonged exchange of signals, the pair finally make contact and mate. The females lay single eggs, each about 6mm long, which they place in a shallow hollow in the ground. The long, yellow larvae that hatch live in the soil.

The mature toktokkie beetle scavenges on a variety of plant and animal debris. The Tenebrionidae family to which this insect belongs is very large, with at least 3 500 species in southern Africa.

In the Namib Desert some species survive by collecting dew from specially excavated trenches which trap moisture from banks of fog rolling in from the Atlantic Ocean. Others in the same area drink by doing a 'head-stand', thereby allowing condensed dew to trickle into their mouths. The Namib is also home to the fastest running beetle in the world, a Tenebrionid that scurries across the scorching sands at lightning speed. Another species boasts the longest legs in the world.

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Most lions drink water daily if available, but can go four or five days without it. Lions in arid areas seem to obtain needed moisture from the stomach contents of their prey.

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