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How dim is dim? Precision of the celestial compass in moonlight and sunlight.

Dacke, Marie LU ; Byrne, M J ; Baird, Emily LU ; Scholtz, C H and Warrant, Eric LU orcid (2011) In Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 366(1565). p.697-702
Abstract
Prominent in the sky, but not visible to humans, is a pattern of polarized skylight formed around both the Sun and the Moon. Dung beetles are, at present, the only animal group known to use the much dimmer polarization pattern formed around the Moon as a compass cue for maintaining travel direction. However, the Moon is not visible every night and the intensity of the celestial polarization pattern gradually declines as the Moon wanes. Therefore, for nocturnal orientation on all moonlit nights, the absolute sensitivity of the dung beetle's polarization detector may limit the precision of this behaviour. To test this, we studied the straight-line foraging behaviour of the nocturnal ball-rolling dung beetle Scarabaeus satyrus to establish... (More)
Prominent in the sky, but not visible to humans, is a pattern of polarized skylight formed around both the Sun and the Moon. Dung beetles are, at present, the only animal group known to use the much dimmer polarization pattern formed around the Moon as a compass cue for maintaining travel direction. However, the Moon is not visible every night and the intensity of the celestial polarization pattern gradually declines as the Moon wanes. Therefore, for nocturnal orientation on all moonlit nights, the absolute sensitivity of the dung beetle's polarization detector may limit the precision of this behaviour. To test this, we studied the straight-line foraging behaviour of the nocturnal ball-rolling dung beetle Scarabaeus satyrus to establish when the Moon is too dim-and the polarization pattern too weak-to provide a reliable cue for orientation. Our results show that celestial orientation is as accurate during crescent Moon as it is during full Moon. Moreover, this orientation accuracy is equal to that measured for diurnal species that orient under the 100 million times brighter polarization pattern formed around the Sun. This indicates that, in nocturnal species, the sensitivity of the optical polarization compass can be greatly increased without any loss of precision. (Less)
Please use this url to cite or link to this publication:
author
; ; ; and
organization
publishing date
type
Contribution to journal
publication status
published
subject
keywords
orientation, polarized light, dung beetle, vision, navigation
in
Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
volume
366
issue
1565
pages
697 - 702
publisher
Royal Society Publishing
external identifiers
  • wos:000286721400012
  • scopus:79952358553
  • pmid:21282173
ISSN
1471-2970
DOI
10.1098/rstb.2010.0191
language
English
LU publication?
yes
id
7230da47-3689-45da-8a78-4ab4f65f0881 (old id 1832431)
date added to LUP
2016-04-01 13:15:48
date last changed
2021-06-08 02:47:28
@article{7230da47-3689-45da-8a78-4ab4f65f0881,
  abstract     = {Prominent in the sky, but not visible to humans, is a pattern of polarized skylight formed around both the Sun and the Moon. Dung beetles are, at present, the only animal group known to use the much dimmer polarization pattern formed around the Moon as a compass cue for maintaining travel direction. However, the Moon is not visible every night and the intensity of the celestial polarization pattern gradually declines as the Moon wanes. Therefore, for nocturnal orientation on all moonlit nights, the absolute sensitivity of the dung beetle's polarization detector may limit the precision of this behaviour. To test this, we studied the straight-line foraging behaviour of the nocturnal ball-rolling dung beetle Scarabaeus satyrus to establish when the Moon is too dim-and the polarization pattern too weak-to provide a reliable cue for orientation. Our results show that celestial orientation is as accurate during crescent Moon as it is during full Moon. Moreover, this orientation accuracy is equal to that measured for diurnal species that orient under the 100 million times brighter polarization pattern formed around the Sun. This indicates that, in nocturnal species, the sensitivity of the optical polarization compass can be greatly increased without any loss of precision.},
  author       = {Dacke, Marie and Byrne, M J and Baird, Emily and Scholtz, C H and Warrant, Eric},
  issn         = {1471-2970},
  language     = {eng},
  number       = {1565},
  pages        = {697--702},
  publisher    = {Royal Society Publishing},
  series       = {Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences},
  title        = {How dim is dim? Precision of the celestial compass in moonlight and sunlight.},
  url          = {http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rstb.2010.0191},
  doi          = {10.1098/rstb.2010.0191},
  volume       = {366},
  year         = {2011},
}