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Dung beetles steer by the Milky Way

Planetarium experiments show that the insects need only starlight to orient themselves

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5:04pm, January 24, 2013

Even a collector of animal waste can keep its eyes on the stars. By tracking the dung beetles skittering across a darkened planetarium, researchers have shown that like seals, birds and people, the feces-eating insects are capable of taking directional cues from the sky.

“This is the first time we have shown that insects can use stars to guide them for orientation,” says neuroethologist Marie Dacke of Lund University in Sweden, “and it’s also the very first proof that animals can use the Milky Way for their orientation.” She and her colleagues report the results January 23 in Current Biology.

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