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Stellar performance : Mechanisms underlying milky way orientation in dung beetles

Foster, James J. LU ; el Jundi, Basil LU ; Smolka, Jochen LU ; Khaldy, Lana LU ; Nilsson, Dan Eric LU ; Byrne, Marcus J and Dacke, Marie LU (2017) In Royal Society of London. Philosophical Transactions B. Biological Sciences 372(1717).
Abstract

Nocturnal dung beetles (Scarabaeus satyrus) are currently the only animals that have been demonstrated to use the Milky Way for reliable orientation. In this study, we tested the capacity of S. satyrus to orient under a range of artificial celestial cues, and compared the properties of these cues with images of the Milky Way simulated for a beetle’s visual system. We find that the mechanism that permits accurate stellar orientation under the Milky Way is based on an intensity comparison between different regions of the Milky Way. We determined the beetles’ contrast sensitivity for this task in behavioural experiments in the laboratory, and found that the resulting threshold of 13% is sufficient to detect the contrast between the... (More)

Nocturnal dung beetles (Scarabaeus satyrus) are currently the only animals that have been demonstrated to use the Milky Way for reliable orientation. In this study, we tested the capacity of S. satyrus to orient under a range of artificial celestial cues, and compared the properties of these cues with images of the Milky Way simulated for a beetle’s visual system. We find that the mechanism that permits accurate stellar orientation under the Milky Way is based on an intensity comparison between different regions of the Milky Way. We determined the beetles’ contrast sensitivity for this task in behavioural experiments in the laboratory, and found that the resulting threshold of 13% is sufficient to detect the contrast between the southern and northern arms of the Milky Way under natural conditions. This mechanism should be effective under extremely dim conditions and on nights when the Milky Way forms a near symmetrical band that crosses the zenith. These findings are discussed in the context of studies of stellar orientation in migratory birds and itinerant seals.

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author
organization
publishing date
type
Contribution to journal
publication status
published
subject
keywords
Sky compass, Star, Straight-line orientation, Vision
in
Royal Society of London. Philosophical Transactions B. Biological Sciences
volume
372
issue
1717
publisher
Royal Society
external identifiers
  • scopus:85012253780
  • wos:000394258900017
ISSN
0962-8436
DOI
10.1098/rstb.2016.0079
language
English
LU publication?
yes
id
6d02df52-4841-4ac3-a4c1-c5a0ed22e082
date added to LUP
2017-02-22 11:44:40
date last changed
2018-05-29 10:31:24
@article{6d02df52-4841-4ac3-a4c1-c5a0ed22e082,
  abstract     = {<p>Nocturnal dung beetles (Scarabaeus satyrus) are currently the only animals that have been demonstrated to use the Milky Way for reliable orientation. In this study, we tested the capacity of S. satyrus to orient under a range of artificial celestial cues, and compared the properties of these cues with images of the Milky Way simulated for a beetle’s visual system. We find that the mechanism that permits accurate stellar orientation under the Milky Way is based on an intensity comparison between different regions of the Milky Way. We determined the beetles’ contrast sensitivity for this task in behavioural experiments in the laboratory, and found that the resulting threshold of 13% is sufficient to detect the contrast between the southern and northern arms of the Milky Way under natural conditions. This mechanism should be effective under extremely dim conditions and on nights when the Milky Way forms a near symmetrical band that crosses the zenith. These findings are discussed in the context of studies of stellar orientation in migratory birds and itinerant seals.</p>},
  articleno    = {20160079},
  author       = {Foster, James J. and el Jundi, Basil and Smolka, Jochen and Khaldy, Lana and Nilsson, Dan Eric and Byrne, Marcus J and Dacke, Marie},
  issn         = {0962-8436},
  keyword      = {Sky compass,Star,Straight-line orientation,Vision},
  language     = {eng},
  month        = {04},
  number       = {1717},
  publisher    = {Royal Society},
  series       = {Royal Society of London. Philosophical Transactions B. Biological Sciences},
  title        = {Stellar performance : Mechanisms underlying milky way orientation in dung beetles},
  url          = {http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rstb.2016.0079},
  volume       = {372},
  year         = {2017},
}