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Nature & Environment

Dung beetles navigate via the Milky Way

By T.K. Randall
January 25, 2013 · Comment icon 19 comments

Image Credit: Dewet @ Flickr
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.[!gad]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.


Source: National Geographic | Comments (19)




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Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #10 Posted by QuiteContrary 11 years ago
"Once the beetles sniff out a steaming pile, males painstakingly craft the dung into balls and roll them as far away from the chaotic mound as possible, often toting a female that they have also picked up." That's one heck of a first date. Wonder what his pickup line is? Actually, I don't want to know. Bugs Rock!
Comment icon #11 Posted by ashven 11 years ago
Well they were special to the ancient Egyptians and some theorists say they came from the stars.............but i agree with the others,coincidence or nonsense
Comment icon #12 Posted by KainFall 11 years ago
If you feel this to be true in your heart.. Then I suspect a good ole hearty Interogation with a dung beetle could be a large source of information for our future in spacial exploration
Comment icon #13 Posted by KainFall 11 years ago
EVEN ASPECTRAL LOCATIONS of Beings of sorts or even CLouds Of aspectraled Degrees beyond aquatured understanding.. The Medial BrainSplasm of this Endeavor
Comment icon #14 Posted by EllJay 11 years ago
"Once the beetles sniff out a steaming pile, males painstakingly craft the dung into balls and roll them as far away from the chaotic mound as possible, often toting a female that they have also picked up." That's one heck of a first date. Wonder what his pickup line is? Actually, I don't want to know. Well, one can speculate though. Maybe something long the lines of -"Hey baby, you wanna roll some s*** with me, huh? I imagine that, amongst dung beetles, is the only environment such a pickup line would carry any weight.
Comment icon #15 Posted by King Cobra 1408 11 years ago
i should be a beetle lol that's awsome though!animals and insects are a lot smarter than what people think.im not surprise to hear this but its very cool and fascinating to study and read.the beetles deserve credit!!!
Comment icon #16 Posted by andy hair candy 11 years ago
just because they live in **** doesnt mean they wouldnt make excellent guides
Comment icon #17 Posted by glorybebe 11 years ago
Amazing! The more we find out about the creatures that inhabit this planet with us, the more we will realize that we are not all that special.
Comment icon #18 Posted by nohands 11 years ago
wow nice!!! hmmmmm maybe those bugs have ESP or that they are just evolve to that certain hobbit of following line (invisible lines )
Comment icon #19 Posted by Malaria_Kidd 11 years ago
It's been over 50 years since I've seen the scarab beetle or tumble bug. And that was always on a cattle trail or in a gravel road under a blue sky. I don't believe their far out finding on how they navigate.


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