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Dung Beetle Navigation

February 7, 2013

Dung beetles use the Milky Way to roll their dung balls in a straight line.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):

Dung beetles, looking up.  I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

The humble dung beetle, best known for rolling around balls of poop, now has a more lofty distinction.  It’s the first creature known to use the Milky Way as a compass.  Biologist Marie Dacke, of Lund University in Sweden, says her team wanted to know how the beetles roll their dung balls in a straight line at night.  So they brought the bugs to a planetarium.

MARIE DACKE (Lund University, Sweden):
And here, we could now dictate and say, okay, we want the eighteen brightest stars, or we want the four thousand dimmest stars, or we want only the Milky Way. And if we showed them the whole starry sky or the Milky Way, the beetles did equally well. And this is what told us the beetles are using the Milky Way for their orientation.

HIRSHON:
Although they’re the first animal proven to do so, Dacke says there are probably many others out there that we just haven’t studied closely enough.  I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.

Dung beetle. (Alex Strauss/Wikipedia)

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