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Published:January 29th, 2013 10:41 EST

Dung Beetles Found to Use Milky Way for Navigation

By John Pustelnik

Researchers have discovered that dung beetles use the light from the Milky Way to help guide them in rolling dung in a straight line.

Dung beetles have been known to use the sun and moon as navigation when rolling dung. Curiosity in how dung beetles continue to roll dung in straight lines on moonless nights led to the discovery that dung beetles also use the Milky Way for navigation.


Dung beetles are currently the only known animal to use the Milky Way for navigation.

It is important for dung beetles to roll dung in a straight line in order to escape from other dung beetles that may steal it from them, and even kill them.

It takes a lot of effort for dung beetles to find dung and roll it into a ball. After the dung beetle manages to get a ball of dung formed, it is important for its survival that it gets away from the main source of dung as fast as possible, by going away from it in a straight line.

When the dung beetle leaves, it is often accompanied by a female dung beetle.

The dung is then buried and used as food for their offspring.

Researchers figured out that dung beetles use the Milky Way for navigation by putting them in a planetarium with an artificial Milky Way. When the Milky Way was turned off, the dung beetles got lost and no longer rolled dung in a straight line.

"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," Wits professor Marcus Byrne said. "But when we turned off the Milky Way, the beetles got lost."

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