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Dung Beetles Use the Milky Way for Orientation

Dacke, Marie LU ; Baird, Emily LU ; Byrne, Marcus; Scholtz, Clarke H and Warrant, Eric LU (2013) In Current Biology 23(4). p.298-300
Abstract
When the moon is absent from the night sky, stars remain as celestial visual cues. Nonetheless, only birds [1, 2], seals [3], and humans [4] are known to use stars for orientation. African ball-rolling dung beetles exploit the sun, the moon, and the celestial polarization pattern to move along straight paths, away from the intense competition at the dung pile [5-9]. Even on clear moonless nights, many beetles still manage to orientate along straight paths [5]. This led us to hypothesize that dung beetles exploit the starry sky for orientation, a feat that has, to our knowledge, never been demonstrated in an insect. Here, we show that dung beetles transport their dung balls along straight paths under a starlit sky but lose this ability... (More)
When the moon is absent from the night sky, stars remain as celestial visual cues. Nonetheless, only birds [1, 2], seals [3], and humans [4] are known to use stars for orientation. African ball-rolling dung beetles exploit the sun, the moon, and the celestial polarization pattern to move along straight paths, away from the intense competition at the dung pile [5-9]. Even on clear moonless nights, many beetles still manage to orientate along straight paths [5]. This led us to hypothesize that dung beetles exploit the starry sky for orientation, a feat that has, to our knowledge, never been demonstrated in an insect. Here, we show that dung beetles transport their dung balls along straight paths under a starlit sky but lose this ability under overcast conditions. In a planetarium, the beetles orientate equally well when rolling under a full starlit sky as when only the Milky Way is present. The use of this bidirectional celestial cue for orientation has been proposed for vertebrates [10], spiders [11], and insects [5, 12], but never proven. This finding represents the first convincing demonstration for the use of the starry sky for orientation in insects and provides the first documented use of the Milky Way for orientation in the animal kingdom. (Less)
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author
organization
publishing date
type
Contribution to journal
publication status
published
subject
in
Current Biology
volume
23
issue
4
pages
298 - 300
publisher
Elsevier
external identifiers
  • wos:000315178400019
  • pmid:23352694
  • scopus:84874645837
ISSN
1879-0445
DOI
10.1016/j.cub.2012.12.034
language
English
LU publication?
yes
id
6e6b0a11-b2b5-4d8b-b37d-2a1a7e675149 (old id 3438257)
date added to LUP
2013-02-05 14:02:29
date last changed
2019-08-14 01:17:45
@article{6e6b0a11-b2b5-4d8b-b37d-2a1a7e675149,
  abstract     = {When the moon is absent from the night sky, stars remain as celestial visual cues. Nonetheless, only birds [1, 2], seals [3], and humans [4] are known to use stars for orientation. African ball-rolling dung beetles exploit the sun, the moon, and the celestial polarization pattern to move along straight paths, away from the intense competition at the dung pile [5-9]. Even on clear moonless nights, many beetles still manage to orientate along straight paths [5]. This led us to hypothesize that dung beetles exploit the starry sky for orientation, a feat that has, to our knowledge, never been demonstrated in an insect. Here, we show that dung beetles transport their dung balls along straight paths under a starlit sky but lose this ability under overcast conditions. In a planetarium, the beetles orientate equally well when rolling under a full starlit sky as when only the Milky Way is present. The use of this bidirectional celestial cue for orientation has been proposed for vertebrates [10], spiders [11], and insects [5, 12], but never proven. This finding represents the first convincing demonstration for the use of the starry sky for orientation in insects and provides the first documented use of the Milky Way for orientation in the animal kingdom.},
  author       = {Dacke, Marie and Baird, Emily and Byrne, Marcus and Scholtz, Clarke H and Warrant, Eric},
  issn         = {1879-0445},
  language     = {eng},
  number       = {4},
  pages        = {298--300},
  publisher    = {Elsevier},
  series       = {Current Biology},
  title        = {Dung Beetles Use the Milky Way for Orientation},
  url          = {http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2012.12.034},
  volume       = {23},
  year         = {2013},
}