The beetles with stars in their eyes


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The Independent Online

They may spend their lives rolling around lumps of dung, but scientists have proven that dung beetles are still looking at the stars.

The insects use stars for orientation, scientists have found. They follow the light of the Milky Way to ensure they roll their dung in a straight line and as far away from rival beetles as possible.

Scientists from South Africa and Sweden tested the insects under a simulated night sky at the Wits University planetarium in Johannesburg.

The beetles were observed climbing to the top of their dung balls and performing an “orientation dance” before setting off along the line of the Milky Way.

“The dung beetles don’t care which direction they’re going in,” said Professor Marcus Byrne of Wits University. “They just need to get away from the bun fight at the poo pile.”

A few other animals, such as seals, have been proven to use stars for navigation but dung beetles are the first known creature to use the Milky Way.