Dung beetles (Scarabaeus lamarcki) scurry around cow pastures collecting little balls of poop from steaming heaps of excrement and quickly roll those balls to their nests, where they bury them for a future meal. (See a video of this behavior.) According to new research published in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, the beetles’ navigational efficiency is due, in part, to the sun.
Last year, Marie Dacke, a biologist at Lund University in Sweden, and her colleagues showed that dung beetles can navigate using the Milky Way—a study that won the researchers an Ig Nobel Prize last fall—but how the insects found their way during the day remained a mystery. To find out, Dacke’s team traveled to South Africa to watch the insects in action.…
This detail from the study shows the experimental setup:
BONUS: This video report by 50/50 profiles the experimenters’ work: