When dung beetles roll their tiny balls of poop across the sands of South Africa on a moonless night, they look to the glow of our Milky Way galaxy as a navigational aid, researchers report.
“Even on clear, moonless nights, many dung beetles still manage to orientate along straight paths,” Marie Dacke, a biologist at Sweden’s Lund University, said in a news release. “This led us to suspect that the beetles exploit the starry sky for orientation — a feat that had, to our knowledge, never before been demonstrated in an insect.”
That’s an amazing claim. But what’s just as amazing are the lengths to which the researchers went to make their case.
First, they built a 10-foot-wide (3-meter-wide) circular arena in a South African game reserve and watched what troops of nocturnal dung beetles did on moonlit nights, moonless nights and cloudy nights. They fitted the bugs with little cardboard caps to block their view of the sky. They even fitted some of the bugs with transparent plastic caps, just to make sure that any differences they saw were due to the sky blockage rather than the presence of the caps.
Read more at NBC News.