Dung Beetles Use the Milky Way to Navigate

Ancient mariners aren't the only ones that used the stars to navigate. It turns out that the lowly dung beetle does as well when it rolls its ball of muck in a Moonless night:

Dung beetles like to run in straight lines. When they find a pile of droppings, they shape a small ball and start pushing it away to a safe distance where they can eat it, usually underground.

Getting a good bearing is important because unless the insect rolls a direct course, it risks turning back towards the dung pile where another beetle will almost certainly try to steal its prized ball.

Dr Dacke had previously shown that dung beetles were able to keep a straight line by taking cues from the Sun, the Moon, and even the pattern of polarised light formed around these light sources.

But it was the animals' capacity to maintain course even on clear Moonless nights that intrigued the researcher.

Jonathan Amos of the BBC explains how beetles navigate using the stars: Link


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