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All I ask is a dung ball and a star to steer her by

25 Jan 2013, 22:40 UTC
All I ask is a dung ball and a star to steer her by
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Image Credit: Dacke et al. / Current Biology via NBC News

Humans are not the only animals to navigate using the sky. Numerous birds and other animals use the sun and moon as navigational cues, and birds and seals also use stars. Evidentially so do dung beetles, which also use the Milky Way, according to a new study in Current Biology by Swedish scientist Marie Dacke and collaborators. (Insert your own dung-related joke here.)

Dung beetles are important insects who help to break apart the large mounds of dung produced by large animals. They go to a pile, make a ball, and then head for home as fast as possible to try and keep other dung beetles from stealing their hard-earned treasure. The best way to do that, of course, is to make a bee-line for home.

Being a small insect in a big world, dung beetles use visual clues to help go home. Previous researchers found that dung beetles use the sun, moon, and polarization of the light in the sky to orient themselves and move in a straight line. But the beetles still work if the sun and moon aren't in the sky.

Dacke and her collaborators tried ...

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