Tok Tokkie Beetles
Tok Tokkie is the common name for all the beetles which produce a “tokking” sound when tapping their rear end on the ground. They perform this serenade in order to attract a mate. But that’s not the only special thing about Tok Tokkies.
Tok Tokkies belong to the Tenebrionid family, the darkling beetles. There are about 200 species of that beetle family in Namibia and about 20 have adapted to live in the arid dunes.
Most of them do a headstand in order to obtain moisture. When the humid air from the Atlantic Ocean mixes with the hot, dry desert air fog is produced. At NamibRand the fog usually does not have a chance against the scorching heat during the day, but at dawn the air is often full of moisture. This is the time when the Tok Tokkies go for a drink. They climb a dune, do a headstand facing west and receive the fog with their whole body. The fog condenses on their back and trickles directly into their mouth.
A few Tok Tokkie beetles have a different strategy. Instead of using their own body they dig trenches on the western face of a dune and await the condensed water at the bottom.
Obtaining water is not all you have to do if you want to survive in the desert as a beetle. The Tok Tokkies of the Namib have developed extra long legs which keep them away from the hot sand. These legs are specially adapted for running on the Namib sand. Research has shown that the Namib beetles are much slower on sand of other deserts! Being fast on the Namib sand is a great advantage to them as running produces a cooling wind.
Food is not that much of a problem; itís just blown to them. They feed on detritus, small plant material like seeds and torn grasses which the wind blows into the dunes.
Being larger than other beetles of their family also helps the Tok Tokkies to keep cool. Their thick chitin shell helps to keep heat out and moisture in. As water is so valuable in the desert they have actually traded in their ability to fly for a wing moisture protection system: They breathe through a hole under their wings, which cannot be spread anymore for flying. When breathing out the water in the air is retained under the wings. When breathing in the moisture is retrieved back into the body. Do not let yourself be mislead by the word breathe - beetles do not have lungs but trachea.
If all this does not help any more, they burrow into the sand. Amazing little creatures!
© Unlimited Travel & Car Hire CC l Disclaimer l Contact us