NCBI ROFL: Dung beetles use Uranus for orientation.

By ncbi rofl | April 2, 2013 12:00 pm

OK, fine. It’s actually the Milky Way (we couldn’t help ourselves). But really, either way, it’s pretty amazing that dung beetles use stars to pilot their way out of a pile of poop. And besides, any study that involves putting dung beetles in a planetarium is a winner in our books.

Dung beetles use the milky way for orientation.

“When the moon is absent from the night sky, stars remain as celestial visual cues. Nonetheless, only birds, seals, and humans are known to use stars for orientation. African ball-rolling dung beetles exploit the sun, the moon, and the celestial polarization pattern to move along straight paths, away from the intense competition at the dung pile. Even on clear moonless nights, many beetles still manage to orientate along straight paths. This led us to hypothesize that dung beetles exploit the starry sky for orientation, a feat that has, to our knowledge, never been demonstrated in an insect. Here, we show that dung beetles transport their dung balls along straight paths under a starlit sky but lose this ability under overcast conditions. In a planetarium, the beetles orientate equally well when rolling under a full starlit sky as when only the Milky Way is present. The use of this bidirectional celestial cue for orientation has been proposed for vertebrates, spiders, and insects, but never proven. This finding represents the first convincing demonstration for the use of the starry sky for orientation in insects and provides the first documented use of the Milky Way for orientation in the animal kingdom.”

Photo: flickr/krugergirl26

Related content:
Discoblog: NCBI ROFL: Yes, dung beetles do have favorite flavors of poop.
Discoblog: NCBI ROFL: Get ready for the fog water collection-off! Round 1: animal vs. plant!
Discoblog: NCBI ROFL: What your poop looks like can tell you how long it’s been inside.
Discoblog: NCBI ROFL: This just in: best paper title of the year!

NCBI ROFL. Real articles. Funny subjects.
Read our FAQ!

NEW ON DISCOVER
OPEN
CITIZEN SCIENCE
ADVERTISEMENT

Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!

Discoblog

Quirky, funny, and surprising science news from the edge of the known universe.

About ncbi rofl

NCBI ROFL is the brainchild of two Molecular and Cell Biology graduate students at UC Berkeley and features real research articles from the PubMed database (which is housed by the National Center for Biotechnology information, aka NCBI) that they find amusing (ROFL is a commonly-used internet acronym for "rolling on the floor, laughing"). Follow us on twitter: @ncbirofl

ADVERTISEMENT

See More

ADVERTISEMENT
Collapse bottom bar
+

Login to your Account

X
E-mail address:
Password:
Remember me
Forgot your password?
No problem. Click here to have it e-mailed to you.

Not Registered Yet?

Register now for FREE. Registration only takes a few minutes to complete. Register now »