In a world first, dung beetles are thought to use our own Milky Way galaxy to orient themselves.
Once a beetle has rolled up its ball of dung there is an urgency to navigate the ball away from the pile so that other beetles don't come and steal it. Previously it was thought that the beetles used the moon to help navigate themselves in a straight line, but when researchers observed that they were still able to do this when the moon wasn't visible in the sky it was determined that something else was helping to orient them.
What the team found was that the beetles were able to use the bright strip of the Milky Way to navigate, the only species known to do so. "This is a complicated navigational feat - it's quite impressive for an animal that size," said biologist Eric Warrant. Scientists have now speculated that if beetles can do this, other species such as moths might also be capable of navigating in the same way.
"To show that the beetles were focusing on the Milky Way, the team moved the table into the Johannesburg Planetarium, and found that the beetles could orient equally well under a full starlit sky as when only the Milky Way was present."
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Source: National Geographic
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