The male and the female roam the woods, spending days looking for a corpse. They then get to work – burying a creature many times their size in half an hour before stripping it of hair or feathers and dispensing chemicals to hide it from other scavengers. Then, their babies are born and they encourage them into the crypt …

This isn’t the twisted plot of the next big horror movie. It’s a key part of the life cycle of carrion beetles, small creatures that new research has revealed are far more crucial to the development of soil ecosystems than previously believed. It may be a gruesome tale, but as Tancredi Caruso explains in our latest Insights long read, the secrets of these zombies of the natural world are key to our understanding of soil, carbon sequestration and the cycle of life.

Another devilish character who has seen a resurgence of late is Cruella de Vil, infamous villain of the Disney classic 101 Dalmatians. A new film explores what made her so vicious, but what’s sparked the trend for humanising classic wrongdoers?

And in the next installment of our series on recovery and resilience, Geoff Mulgan explores what the COVID experience has taught us about risk.

Josephine Lethbridge

Investigations Editor

A female burying beetle caring for her brood. Oliver Krueger

Flesh-eating bugs: new research shows how carrion beetles turn death into life

Tancredi Caruso, University College Dublin

Carrion beetles help stabilise the biology of the soil they live in.


Cruella: why Disney and other studios are trying to invite sympathy for devilish characters

Leora Hadas, University of Nottingham

Like Joker, this adaptation seeks to humanise a famous villain. But is this revisionism or a new story altogether?

Navigating risk can feel like walking on a tightrope, even when you’re perfectly safe. zhukovvvlad/Shutterstock

What we can learn about risk from the COVID experience

Geoff Mulgan, UCL

We often underestimate dangerous risks because they are slow or we think we are in more control of them than we actually are.

Business + Economy

Health + Medicine

Science + Technology

Environment + Energy


Politics + Society


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