In this review some examples of rolling behaviour in nature are described and discussed in terms of the realised degree of wheel-like locomotion. The combination of rotation and the use of the low friction resistance of circular and smooth surfaces to transport a heavy load, as is seen in scarab beetles rolling dung pills, is the closest degree of similarity to a wheel found in nature. Populations of dung rolling scarabs may have benefited from the early domestication of large mammals in the Middle East. I suggest that an increased opportunity to observe pill rolling scarab beetles has inspired humans to invent the wheel.

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Contributions to Zoology

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Naturalis journals & series

Scholtz, G. (2008). Scarab beetles at the interface of wheel invention in nature and culture?. Contributions to Zoology, 77(3), 139–148.