Dung beetle sentences to ponder

by on May 15, 2016 at 2:42 am in Science, Travel | Permalink

Dung beetles record a mental image of the positions of the Sun, the Moon and the stars and use the snapshot to navigate, according to researchers.

Scientists in Sweden found that the beetles capture the picture of the sky while dancing on a ball of manure.

As they roll away with their malodorous prize, the beetles compare the stored image with their current location.

The beetles’ navigational skills could aid the development of driverless vehicles, the researchers suggest.

Previous studies have shown that dung beetles have an amazing ability to navigate by the light of the Milky Way.

Here is the full story.

1 Asher May 15, 2016 at 5:39 am

Hypothesis regarding application to driverless vehicles sounds like over-reaching. This is a case of “we discovered that dung beetles can do something amazing for dung beetles”, not “we discovered that dung beetles can do something amazing for people”. People have known for a long time how to make images of heavenly bodies and navigate by them.

2 anon May 15, 2016 at 8:27 am

Navigation “by snapshot” is pretty well established for many creatures, including man, and has been reported here earlier. That beetles use stars is nice though.

I agree that driverless car applications seem thin when they already gave GPS and compass.

3 Hasdrubal May 16, 2016 at 10:57 am

Don’t ICBMs use star charts to navigate? That’s, like, 50s or 60s technology. What’s groundbreaking about dung beetles?

4 hilly billy joe May 15, 2016 at 6:13 am

when i was a youngin i use to eat myself dung beetles for supper. aint nuffin to em, just pop em in ur mouth and crunch away like its ur birthday.

5 Billy Bob May 15, 2016 at 6:32 am

You did’nt fry em up? Gross.

6 rayward May 15, 2016 at 7:03 am

“The beetles’ navigational skills could aid the development of driverless vehicles, the researchers suggest.” Irony lives!

7 Ray Lopez May 15, 2016 at 7:16 am

Shit happens.

In other news: homing pigeons can find their way hope even if drugged and blindfolded, and placed several hundred kilometers from their home. How dey do dat?

8 The Dirty Mac May 15, 2016 at 7:31 am

What do they do when it’s cloudy?

9 Shane M May 15, 2016 at 2:58 pm

They can see other spectrum of light than we can, so they can navigate using extended spectrum.

10 mkt42 May 16, 2016 at 1:56 pm

The article says they can also sense the polarization of sunlight, which helps them sense where the sun is even when it’s cloudy.

I had the exact same question on reading the headline; a better headline would’ve mentioned polarized light (and perhaps not mentioned the moon, which is sometimes absent from the sky and thus useless for navigation).

I did wonder if clouds disrupted sunlight’s polarization but evidently not: some scientists hypothesize that the Vikings navigated using polarized light, in addition to using sundials to measure the direction of the sun.

11 dearieme May 15, 2016 at 7:55 am

“on a ball of manure”: ah, ‘elegant variation’ lives.

12 carlolspln May 15, 2016 at 8:00 am

There is no Great Stagnation ™

In the future, we shall all have our own balls of manure


13 Nigel May 15, 2016 at 5:10 pm

We are all of us in the manure, but some of us are looking at the stars…

14 kb May 15, 2016 at 8:45 am

A little off topic, but If you want to know more about dung beetles (as well as saber tooth tigers and humans for that matter) read this:

15 Yancey Ward May 15, 2016 at 11:42 am

Sounds like some entomologists are trying to get grant money from Google.

16 Troll me May 16, 2016 at 1:49 am

And so they should.

17 Meets May 15, 2016 at 12:37 pm

That’s some interesting sh*#

18 zbicyclist May 15, 2016 at 5:01 pm

I can understand that dung beetles might evolve sensitive senses of smell, but I don’t understand why they would get an advantage from a sophisticated navigation system. Do they ever need to find anything other than more poop and occasionally a dung beetle of the opposite sex?

19 Troll me May 16, 2016 at 1:49 am

So they can find where they stored their food.

20 Troll me May 16, 2016 at 1:49 am

Interesting. The freer autonomous vehicles are from reliance on any communications network, whether GPS or otherwise, the better the integrity of the transportation system will be. There’s also the bonus of location tracking not being built into the system.

They would have to account for solar eclipses and maybe stop for a few minutes every few years or decades. The relevant information is already openly available to the public, no?

21 David Foster May 16, 2016 at 5:55 pm

How far do these creatures travel? I don’t think even the best celestial navigation systems are accurate to less than a mile or so.

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