Dung Beetles Use Milky Way for Navigation

Dung Beetles Use Milky Way for Navigation

From iSimangaliso Wetland Park Authority: Dung beetles are a curious lot – their choice of home and diet may be less than attractive but to watch these incredible architects of faecal matter – nature’s own pooper-scoopers – is enchanting.

They’ve been around for some 40 million years and there are no fewer than 10 000 known species in the world (possibly even three times that number).

iSimangaliso has some 140 of these, doing a tremendous job in dissipating the many tonnes of manure that would otherwise pile up on the landscape.

Imagine a world without them… we’d be knee deep in the stuff. Certain beetles are known to be species-specific and have ‘an exquisite sense of smell’ according to one researcher – they can sniff out the excretions of say a rhino amongst the many other aromas in the air, and hone in their chosen delicacy.

Observers may have wondered how they know where to go with that giant ball of poo and a fascinating discovery published earlier this year by Professor Marcus Byrne and associates from Wits University revealed that dung beetles are the first animals proven to use the Milky Way for orientation.

The dung beetle is now the first animal proven to use the light of the milky way for orientation and navigation.

The vast and dim milky glow of our home galaxy provides a good source of orientation when the Sun or a bright Moon isn’t available.

The dung beetles don’t care which direction they’re going in; they just need to get away from the bun fight at the poo pile. Professor Marcus Byrne from Wits University.

dungbeetle iSimangaliso
Image Source: iSimangaliso Wetland Park Authority

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