Stargazing Isn’t Just For People Anymore

Dung Beetles Navigate Via the Milky Way, First Known in Animal Kingdom

A green and red Perseid meteor striking the sk...

A green and red Perseid meteor striking the sky just below Milky Way. The trail appears slightly curved due to edge distortion in the lens (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Yes, it is true that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, and it is true in the animal kingdom as well. I love that aspect about nature. There is no waste! Well, there is the “waste” in this article, but I meant that everything is used by something in the animal kingdom. I really enjoyed this article because it showed that dung beetles can use the stars to navigate around, and it also gives support for “light pollution” awareness. It is obvious we do not understand the intertwining nature of the animal and plant kingdoms, as well as mankind’s role in it. Humans have the advantage, or disadvantage, of technology. Back in the day, we had to use the stars to navigate too, now we just use GPS machines or iPhones. There are many technology advances that have phased out our need to “be in touch with nature.” Because of this, it is difficult for people to grasp how monumental our actions can be on other species. There are many other animals that use light for orientation. Birds have issues migrating because of skyscraper lights and sea turtle hatchlings can get disoriented on their way to the ocean because of lights on the beach. However, the dung beetle is the first species that has been found to be able to use the stars to navigate. Another interesting fact is that some insects (including the dung beetle, of course) can see polarized light because of special photoreceptors in their eyes! The article goes into the experiments used to narrow down the options for how the beetles are able to navigate on moonless nights. The researchers even put little cardboard hats on the beetles as controls. The scientists were able to show that dung beetles can use the stars, specifically the milky way, to navigate! Additionally, researchers also believe there is a high probably that other insects, like moths, also utilize the stars for direction.

Dung Beetle. Wiki Commons: Lycaon

Dung Beetle. Wiki Commons: Lycaon

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