Dung Beetles Navigate Using the Stars, Milky Way

Dung beetles are better navigators than given credit

By Lucian Parfeni on January 24th, 2013 21:52 GMT

Dung beetles aren't the most respected of creatures, for obvious reasons, yet they are quite resourceful critters and, it turns out, quite the able navigators. Scientists have been wondering how the small insects were able to keep going in a straight line while rolling their, umm, prize even at night.

Some scientist now believe that, like old seafarers, as well as some birds and seals, dung beetles use the stars to keep their fairings straight.

Researchers used several experiments to determine how the beetles navigate. These beetles, having collected enough material in the shape of a ball, roll it away to avoid competition with other beetles. To make sure they don't end up where they left, they use some method of navigation.

What the scientists found was that the beetles had a much harder time when obstacles were blocking their view of the sky or on dark nights. At the same time, they observed that the presence of the moon made no difference.

They then experimented with a few beetles in a dark room by projecting the night sky or just parts of it onto the ceiling.

The beetles don't have eyes sensitive enough to make out individual stars. But the scientists found that they are capable of distinguishing the polarization of the light and that the beetles used the light from the Milky Way as guidance.
Dung beetles rely on the Milky Way for navigation
   Dung beetles rely on the Milky Way for navigation
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