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What is the only insect known to navigate with stars?



  Large dung beetle on its dung ball
Bernard DuPont / Flickr

Answer: Dung beetle

Although scientists have long suspected that insects can use stars for navigation purposes (such as humans and birds), there has never been concrete evidence for any insects actually doing this. No evidence until the researchers published in early 201

3 in the journal Current Biology that African dung beetles navigated successfully with stars.

It is not just the dung beetles that use other celestial cues, such as the position of the sun and moon, but on moonless nights, they also use the orientation of the Milky Way to navigate on straight paths. The researchers observed this phenomenon in the wild and repeated it by using beetles in a planetarium and following their alignment with the projected Milky Way.

The crucial detail was that the positions of the individual stars were irrelevant (the beetles took care of that) very little when a particular star or constellation was visible in the planetarium), but the general magnitude and strength of the Milky Way in the Model was. Just as many insect species use the position of the sun during the day, the dung beetles used the position of the brightest part of the Milky Way as a beacon. In this way, the beetles still navigate with stars, but by chance they use many of them as a reference point at the same time.


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