Dung beetles are guided by the stars

In the moonless night, dung beetles, which foraged at night, guided by the stars — but not for everyone, but only by the Milky Way.

Not only people and birds can check in the direction of his travels on the stars. Scientists from the University of Lund (Sweden) found that ability in creatures, which, in this sense, one might last, — the dung beetles. According to researchers, this is the only proven case that insects are able to navigate by the stars.

Finding, as it were, a lot of waste, dung beetle rolls a ball and roll it off as quickly as possible, so as not to face potential competitors or predators. Even if you move the beetle in a completely unfamiliar environment, it is does not bother, it will still move so far away from the dunghill. Previously, scientists have discovered that dung beetles do not use landscape landmarks like trees or rocks, and that they navigate by the sun and the moon, "digesting", in all probability, the polarized light of both celestial bodies. About the stars it was not, moreover, in the early experiments by the same researchers from Lund University beetles disoriented, if not see the moon, the stars while they were visible.

Dor to the "cap" on his head, covering the sky from him (photo Marcus Byrne / University of the Witwatersrand).

Then, however, the data began to appear that the scarabs still pay attention to the stars. To finally settle this question, the researchers, along with colleagues from the University of Witwatersrand (South Africa) gave the following experiment. Beetles were placed in a pen with high walls, so they can observe only a certain piece of the sky, or an insect on his head wearing special "cap" that they do not see the sky. For the experiment chose the moon, and cloudy moonless night, when the moon and the stars were covered by clouds. Confident of beetles felt when saw the sky, but researchers continue to doubt that the dung needed star: after seeing beetles have not so good to distinguish between points of light in the sky.

Then experiments were transferred to the planetarium. In the planetarium can be left on view or that star, and the rest, as it were "off." As the researchers wrote in the journal Current Biology, to determine where to go, beetles needed is the Milky Way. If this white diffuse band of the night sky was not visible, even the brightest stars of the beetles did not help (as long as the sky and the moon was not there). That is, speaking with some poetic exaggeration, dung beetles are on the Milky Way. It turns out that the Egyptians know who to worship.

At the same time, it became clear why the previous experiments beetles ignored starry sky. Scientists have been experimenting with the beetles in South Africa, and the experiments were carried out in October, when the Milky Way is so close to the horizon, which use it as a reference point is very difficult. In the future, biologists want to find out what kind of celestial landmarks for scarabs still preferable — the moon or stars.

Prepared according ScienceNews.

Category: Animals

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