Dung beetles navigate using this one incredible trick of nature.
An amazing new study finds that there’s a lot more to dung beetles than meets the eye.
Once dung beetles have come upon a new “meal,” they do a strange little dance — as it turns out, they’re taking a snapshot of the skies to figure out where they are and where they need to go, according to a Lund University statement.
Scientists are still baffled as to how the beetles orient themselves, but this new study sheds light on just how they can navigate the long distances they travel. Rather than checking the stars every once in a while, they take a “celestial snapshot” and store it in their memory.
It all starts when dung beetles enter a dung pile and grab a piece for themselves, shaping it into a ball and readying for escape while protecting it from other beetles. The beetle has to move fast to escape with its prize, so the beetle climbs the dung and does a quick dance, rotating on a vertical access.
What it’s doing is getting directions on the fly, and then taking a snapshot so he can make his escape as quickly as possible.
Scientists were able to test this by allowing dung beetles to collect their dung under an artifical sky, altering the brightness of the stars and where the constellations were located.
“Other animals and insects also use the position of celestial bodies to navigate, but the dung beetles are unique – they are the only ones to take a snapshot where they gather information about how various celestial bodies, such as the sun, moon and stars, are positioned,” Basil el Jundi, researcher at Lund University, said in the statement. “We are the first to have shown that dung beetles are taking these snapshots. We are also the first to show how they store and use the images inside their tiny brains.”