Dung beetles guided by Milky Way

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You might expect dung beetles to keep their 'noses to the ground,' but they are actually incredibly attuned to the sky. A report published in Current Biology shows that even on the darkest of nights, African ball-rolling insects are guided by the soft glo
(image by Dacke et al. / Current Biology)

When dung beetles roll their tiny balls of poop across the sands of South Africa on a moonless night, they look to the glow of our Milky Way galaxy as a navigational aid, researchers report. 'Even on clear, moonless nights, many dung beetles still manage to orientate along straight paths,' Marie Dacke, a biologist at Sweden's Lund University, said in a news release. 'This led us to suspect that the beetles exploit the starry sky for orientation - a feat that had, to our knowledge, never before been demonstrated in an insect.' That's an amazing claim. But what's just as amazing are the lengths to which the researchers went to make their case. Before this study, only birds, humans and seals were known to use the stars for orientation. The compound eyes of a dung beetle may not be all that great - but they're good enough to make out the Milky Way's glowing band in a dark sky.

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of all sorts has puzzled biologists for more than ... by Daniel Geery on Monday, Jan 28, 2013 at 3:22:26 PM