Lowly Dung Beetle Looks to the Stars to Navigate01/24/13
THURSDAY, Jan. 24 (HealthDay News) -- Dung beetles use the Milky
Way galaxy to figure out which way to roll their dung balls, a new
Previous research has shown that some other animals use stars
for orientation, but the dung beetle is the first animal proven to
use the galaxy, according to the scientists from the University of
the Witwatersrand in South Africa.
Dung beetles' eyes are too weak to identify individual
constellations in the Milky Way. Instead, they use the gradient of
light to dark provided by the galaxy to ensure they keep rolling
their balls in a straight line and don't circle back to their
competitors at the dung pile, the researchers explained.
"The dung beetles don't care which direction they're going in; they just need to get away from the bun fight at the poo pile," study author Marcus Byrne said in a university news release.
The research is published in the Jan. 24 issue of the journal
Byrne and his colleagues previously found that dung beetles use
the sun, the moon and polarized light for orientation. They also
discovered that the beetles climb on top of their dung balls to
locate light sources for orientation.
The researchers believe that dung beetles prefer certain light
sources for orientation. If the moon and Milky Way are visible at
the same time, the beetles likely use one rather than the
The San Diego Zoo has more about
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