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article imageDung beetles navigate by sunlight

By Tim Sandle     Jan 11, 2014 in Environment
Shortly after demonstrating dung beetles’ ability to navigate by the stars, researchers in Sweden provide evidence that the insects can also use the sun to find their way.
The issue of dung beetles and stars was reported last year on Digital Journal by Anne Sewell; following this comes some further research into the way that dung beetles find their way around.
Dung beetles (Scarabaeus lamarcki) have an interesting life. They scurry around cow pastures collecting little balls of poop from steaming heaps of excrement and quickly roll those balls to their nests, where they bury them for a future meal. The video below shows some beetles in action:
Dung beetles live in many habitats, including desert, farmland, forest, and grasslands. They do not prefer extremely cold or dry weather. They are found on all continents except Antarctica.
The beetles are very adept at finding their way around. According to new research published in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, the beetles’ navigational efficiency is due, in part, to the sun. The paper is titled "The role of the sun in the celestial compass of dung beetles."
To show this, a research team went to South Africa to watch the insects in action. According to National Geographic, by observing the beetles at different times of day, and by manipulating their sun exposure with wooden boards and mirrors, the researchers found that the hard-working animals were indeed dependent on the Earth’s star for navigation. When the sun was directly overhead or blocked by a board, the beetles made many navigational errors; when the sun was near the horizon, they fared much better.
More about dung beetles, Sunlight, Navigation
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