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Dung Beetles Navigate By the Milky Way; Pigeons Tune In To Magnetism

timothy posted about a year ago | from the that-would-be-the-greatest-implant dept.

Earth 82

sciencehabit writes with this excerpt from Science magazine's colorful synopsis of a paywalled article at Current Biology "A day in the life of a male dung beetle goes something like this: Fly to a heap of dung, sculpt a clump of it into a large ball, then roll the ball away from the pile as fast as possible. However, it turns out that the beetles, who work at night, need some sort of compass to prevent them from rolling around in circles. New research suggests that the insects use starlight to guide their way. Birds, seals, and humans also use starlight to navigate, but this is the first time it's been shown in an insect." Also on the topic of How Animals Get Around Without GPS, new research has considerably heightened scientists understanding of birds' sensitivity to magnetic fields. For homing pigeons at least, this ability seems to be tied to a cluster of just 53 neurons (original paper, also behind a paywall).

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82 comments

eqyptians (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42705335)

It's no wonder the Egyptians liked Dung Beetles.

Re:eqyptians (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42705435)

The Egyptians, like all other Middle-easterners, are dung beetles.

- Ethanol-fueled

Re:eqyptians (2)

kcelery (410487) | about a year ago | (#42705441)

Dung Beetles move structures 1141 times their own weight. A skill much regarded by the pyramid builders.

The reinvention of wheel was much inspired by this tiny creature.

No so impressive (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42706005)

They just sound like the average IT worker: capable of dealing with huge piles of someone else's shit and when not doing that they are busy reinventing the wheel.

Re:No so impressive (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42708743)

Not to mention that once you get your shit together, you just gotta roll with it!

Re:No so impressive (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42713655)

Do they navigate by starlight too?

Homer (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42705343)

...follows the donuts

This is why I like science and nature (0)

inode_buddha (576844) | about a year ago | (#42705363)

This is why I like science and nature shows. You learn some pretty amazing things that living things do. And, you can watch them screw.
After enough decades, you have seen most things screw. And they are a LOT uglier than you...

Re:This is why I like science and nature (1)

TWX (665546) | about a year ago | (#42705373)

After enough decades, you have seen most things screw. And they are a LOT uglier than you...

Then what's your holdup?

Re:This is why I like science and nature (1)

Genda (560240) | about a year ago | (#42705829)

Funny thing, is they prolly think the same thing about you... they put what, where?....ewwwww!

Re:This is why I like science and nature (3, Informative)

SternisheFan (2529412) | about a year ago | (#42706617)

Dung beetle; Ecology and behavior:

Dung beetles live in many different habitats, including desert, farmland, forest, and grasslands. They do not prefer extremely cold or dry weather. They are found on all continents except Antarctica.

Dung beetles eat dung excreted by herbivores and omnivores, and prefer that produced by the former. Many of them also feed on mushrooms and decaying leaves and fruits. One type living in Central America, Deltochilum valgum, is a carnivore preying upon millipedes. Those that eat dung do not need to eat or drink anything else, because the dung provides all the necessary nutrients.

Most dung beetles search for dung using their sensitive sense of smell. Some of the smaller species simply attach themselves to the dung-providers to wait for their reward. After capturing the dung, a dung beetle will roll it, following a straight line despite all obstacles. Sometimes dung beetles will try to steal the dung ball from another beetle, so the dung beetles have to move rapidly away from a dung pile once they have rolled their ball to prevent it from being stolen. Dung beetles can roll up to 10 times their weight. Male Onthophagus taurus beetles can pull 1,141 times their own body weight: the equivalent of an average person pulling six double-decker buses full of people. In 2003, researchers found one species of dung beetle (the African Scarabaeus zambesianus) navigates by using polarization patterns in moonlight. The discovery is the first proof any animal can use polarized moonlight for orientation. In 2013 a study was published revealing that dung beetles can navigate when only the Milky Way or clusters of bright stars are visible, the only animal known to orient themselves with the galaxy.

The "rollers" roll and bury a dung ball either for food storage or for making a brooding ball. In the latter case, two beetles, one male and one female, will be seen around the dung ball during the rolling process. Usually it is the male that rolls the ball, with the female hitch-hiking or simply following behind. In some cases the male and the female roll together. When a spot with soft soil is found, they stop and bury the dung ball. They will then mate underground. After the mating, both or one of them will prepare the brooding ball. When the ball is finished, the female lays eggs inside it, a form of mass provisioning. Some species do not leave after this stage, but remain to safeguard their offspring.

The dung beetle goes through a complete metamorphosis. The larvae live in brood balls made with dung prepared by their parents. During the larval stage, the beetle feeds on the dung surrounding it.

The behavior of the beetles was much misunderstood until the pioneering studies of Jean Henri Fabre. For example, Fabre corrected the myth that a dung beetle would seek aid from other dung beetles when confronted by obstacles. By painstaking observations and experiments, he found the seeming helpers were, in fact, robbers awaiting an opportunity to steal the roller's food source:

“I ask myself in vain what Proudhon introduced into Scarabaean morality the daring paradox that "property means plunder", or what diplomatist taught the Dung-beetle the savage maxim that "might is right".

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dung_beetle [wikipedia.org]

Give me a ball of dung and a star to steer her by (1)

An dochasac (591582) | about a year ago | (#42713845)

A type of dung beetle known as the scarab beetle was sacred to the ancient Egyptians. [greenprophet.com] They saw it's path as it rolled a ball of dung across the earth as an earthly manifestation of the Sun god Ra's path across the sky. Now we know there was a grain of truth in this belief.

Captain James T. Kirk quoted English poet Jonathan Masefield, "All I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by." Scarab beetle celestial navigation was far beyond this with their, "All I ask is a ball of dung and a galaxy to steer her by."

Really? (0)

TWX (665546) | about a year ago | (#42705369)

An excerpt of a synopsis? Really? Is that what we're down to these days?

Seems to me like the upper management method of running things has come into full swing.

Re:Really? (1)

boarder8925 (714555) | about a year ago | (#42705569)

That's nothing. My friend's working on an adaptation of a translation of a synopsis of a logline of an excerpt of a summary of an adaptation of my other friend's cousin's translation of his great aunt's rewrite of her sister's letters to her first boyfriend, which letters were written in shorthand. I look forward to reading an excerpt of a synopsis of the abstract of the first academic paper my old professor has said he'll write about it.

Re:Really? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42706137)

LOLOLOLOLOLOLOL

That was so fucking funny!

If you can't tell, I was being sarcastic. Now, fuck off.

Re:Really? (3, Interesting)

SternisheFan (2529412) | about a year ago | (#42706713)

An excerpt of a synopsis? Really? Is that what we're down to these days? Seems to me like the upper management method of running things has come into full swing.

Whenever I submit a story to /., it's a synopsis I found on google news, usually it's a straight copy/paste. That's usually what the editors here get and have to work with. I suppose that their job involves doing far more behind the scenes than, as /. viewers, we're privy to. Seems to me they do the best they can with what they get, and do clean up the sloppy story submissions they recieve.

Many's been the time that the /. eds research a story idea I submitted much further/deeper, providing a far more improved, informative story synopsis, entirely re-doing my submission over from scratch.

My hat gets doffed to the editors, they all do their best to keep improving this site. Samzepus, Soulskill, Timothy and the rest. For example, I have more respect and understanding of 'Timothy', who when I first started reading /., I assumed was some smartass techie kid, and who I'm guilty of goofing on a bit in some of my earliest posts (sorry 'bout those, Tim) . I learned that he's an intelligent man who knows a great deal about varied subjects. Live and learn.

The editors provide the content here, and it is up to the users of the site to expand on the provided story, and they almost always come through. I know I've expanded my world knowledge from reading this site over the last several years.

Slashdot editors are human too, and I don't think I'd want the job myself, and I've got a pretty thick skin. To have the whole world watching and critiquing my work (especially while I'm having a bad day anyway, the commenters can get really brutal here), no thanks!

Polarized Light also might be used (4, Informative)

girlinatrainingbra (2738457) | about a year ago | (#42705385)

It's been hypothesized that pigeons also use polarized light [wikipedia.org] to sense the position of the sun in the sky-sphere, even if the sun itself is obscured from direct viewing. It's been definitely shown to be true for:
-- honeybees : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Animal_navigation#Orientation_by_polarised_light [wikipedia.org]
-- squids eyes : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cephalopod_eye#Polarized_light [wikipedia.org]
-- fishies : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vision_in_fishes#Polarized_light [wikipedia.org]
.
Pigeons have been tested for polarization sensing and magnetic field sensing by William Tinsley Keeton [wikipedia.org].

Re:Polarized Light also might be used (4, Interesting)

camperdave (969942) | about a year ago | (#42706089)

Apparently, Vikings did it too, with a special stone [discovery.com].

Re:Polarized Light also might be used (1)

girlinatrainingbra (2738457) | about a year ago | (#42706119)

Cool! Does the polarization stone work through clouds too? And isn't it amazing that there's a different magicky special stone [wikipedia.org] for magnetism?? The chinese floated it on a cork for compass use:
By the 12th century, the lodestone compass was being used for navigation in medieval China. --- from History of the lodestone on wikipedia [wikipedia.org]

The wikipedites also claim that the Olmecs might have beaten the chinese by a millennium, though! ;>p

Re:Polarized Light also might be used (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42706529)

>Does the polarization stone work through clouds too?

I'd guess so, because if there aren't any clouds, the sun is pretty easy to pinpoint without the help of tools.

Re:Polarized Light also might be used (1)

girlinatrainingbra (2738457) | about a year ago | (#42706581)

yes, i goofed. I meant to say "rain", not "clouds". How does rain affect polarization of skylight that's already been diffused through the clouds?

Re:Polarized Light also might be used (1)

camperdave (969942) | about a year ago | (#42707159)

Clouds are nothing more than a collection of tiny water droplets. Rain is nothing more than a collection of large water droplets. If the polarization of skylight is not affected by one, I wouldn't expect it to be affected by the other.

Re:Polarized Light also might be used (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42706841)

TED talk by Marcus Byrne demonstrates the polarized light theory:
http://www.ted.com/talks/marcus_byrne_the_dance_of_the_dung_beetle.html

Re:Polarized Light also might be used (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42706979)

It has also been shown that pigeons are attracted by smoke going up the chimney. Despite a message attached, it has not yet been found out why.

What's brown and sounds like a bell? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42705409)

Dung! [google.com]

This is why I love science. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42705421)

You dont have to be able to prove anything. You can just make up something and as long as it sounds good then youre a scientist. Hell you can be a good speaker and call yourself a scientist, if you can phrase and word things in a good way you can make up crazy stuff you have no idea about and people will believe you because there is no way to prove that youre wrong. And thats what a lot of "science" is, its saying something that sounds good while at the same not being able to be proved wrong.

"A dung beetle navigtes via the milky way" how you can you possibly prove that to be false? But it sounds really cool so people will buy it even though thats the stupidest thing Ive heard since a man saved all animal life on the planet by building a giant ship to put them all on for 40 days.

But it has "science" tacked onto it so people will believe it no matter how stupid it is. Its like people will say "You know the best way to cure cancer is to drink chinese tea brewed in donkey urine. I read it in a article" and some dumbass will believe it just because you said "in an article" just like people can sell the dumbest stuff to anyone if they label it as a scientific discovery.

Re:This is why I love science. (3, Insightful)

UltraZelda64 (2309504) | about a year ago | (#42705453)

If you believe anything you read just because the person claims it to be a scientific fact, then that's your fault--not science. Don't just believe everyone you hear, that would be a good place to start.

If something cannot be successfully proven or is in fact proven to be bullshit, then it is discarded as such. That is what is good about science. It's also really weird when you grew up interested in astronomy being taught and passing tests in school of the "nine planets" and all of a sudden there's eight. Poor little Pluto. :(

Re:This is why I love science. (1)

dissy (172727) | about a year ago | (#42707541)

It's also really weird when you grew up interested in astronomy being taught and passing tests in school of the "nine planets" and all of a sudden there's eight. Poor little Pluto. :(

It wasn't all that sudden really. I too grew up learning about the nine planets.
But as our telescope technology improved, suddenly there was a 10th planet even larger than pluto, aka Eris or 2003 UB313.
Then an 11th, Ceres.
Then a 12th, Vesta.
Then Haumea, Astraea, Quaoar, and Makemake... and more that all changed names and classifications so frequently that it's hard to keep things straight.
Even the list above can't be considered in the correct order due to planets being discovered, then demoted, then promoted, all at different times.

We accomplished launching a telescope into space - avoiding all the issues looking through the atmosphere can cause, and can see even further out than ever before.
We discovered essentially a second asteroid belt but containing much larger rocky bodies, and find hundreds, then thousands of rocks all roughly the same size range as pluto. A few bigger, most smaller,, some closer, most quite far out there.

Who wants to remember the names of thousands of planets and hundreds of thousands of moons all within our little solar system?

A line needed to be drawn. A lot of people did not want another "arbitrary line on a map" that so plagues borders here at home.

Yes it might be annoying that poor pluto was caught on the other side of that definition, but even if you want to still say it is a planet, why do you still discount a larger than pluto planets like Eris, or the other planets even closer to us than pluto?

If 8 is not the correct answer, then 9 most certainly is not either.

If you draw a line a certain distance out, right at the orbit of pluto, then there are 12 planets.
If you draw that line just within the orbit of pluto, then there are 8.
If you include the whole solar system, there are hundreds of thousands of planets.
I predict many replies to this post with even more definitions and planet counts, each perfectly valid within that definition. That is the scale of the problem, and not a trivial one at that.

The only condition where 9 is the correct number of planets is a point in time in our past when we were ignorant of the others. With that definition, again, why 9?
Why not 11, as was the case in the mid 1800's? Or 6, as was the case a thousand years ago?
They are all equal, in that is all that could be seen at the time.

Some people, perhaps even a lot of people, disagree with the definition as currently drawn, and there is nothing wrong with that. There is even nothing wrong with making and using your own definition. But just realize that, just like when pluto was demoted, in the future new discoveries will need to fit within that definition, and we can't keep changing it willy nilly as to keep the planet count from ever changing again.
All that we ask is that the definition is consistent.

Science is all about changing what we thought we knew as new discoveries are made and new evidence is found. If anything is certain, there is still plenty out there we still don't know about and our knowledge will continue to change.

Re:This is why I love science. (1)

UltraZelda64 (2309504) | about a year ago | (#42709435)

I was being semi-sarcastic about being disappointed that Pluto was demoted; although serious that it was... bizarre, to say the least, that what I learned all along was wrong. To be honest, I always thought Pluto was a very boring object, certainly not as interesting as the gas giants, and didn't really fit in. But I remember reading about Eris and Makemake and whatever else, and thought, "whoopty do, another Pluto... boring." I actually didn't read much into it, but your explanation seems to paint the history pretty clearly.

I don't know why they didn't just name one of the damn things "Planet X" just to shut up all the sci-fi conspiracy theorists who use that name to make shit up and claim it's the end of the world or something. Then again, I guess they'd just claim the scientists are wrong, that it's not the "real" Planet X, or make up some new name.

Re:This is why I love science. (2)

Doubting Sapien (2448658) | about a year ago | (#42705479)

from the article:

The experiment was conducted both outdoors under the night sky, and inside a planetarium where researchers could manipulate the starlight and hone in on the specific cues that the dung beetles were using.

Better trolling next time.

Re:This is why I love science. (4, Informative)

Xeno man (1614779) | about a year ago | (#42705541)

You dont have to be able to prove anything. You can just make up something and as long as it sounds good then youre a scientist. Hell you can be a good speaker and call yourself a scientist, if you can phrase and word things in a good way you can make up crazy stuff you have no idea about and people will believe you because there is no way to prove that youre wrong. And thats what a lot of "science" is, its saying something that sounds good while at the same not being able to be proved wrong.

"A dung beetle navigtes via the milky way" how you can you possibly prove that to be false?

Obviously you didn't get past the summary, or maybe even the title but what you claim is not science. Science is not spouting random things and waiting for someone else to prove you wrong. Go try that and you will have the credibility of the guy shouting that the end is near. Findings are whats published with procedures and methods used to reach those findings. Others interested can reproduce the experiment to try to get the same results to try to confirm those findings. If they can't reproduce the same results then the original finding must be declared false and reevaluated.

What you think of science is the result of journalists taking the findings and dumbing them down enough so people like you can understand a new fact.

Re:This is why I love science. (2)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about a year ago | (#42705781)

I assume that the fairly trivial "put some dung beetles in an enclosure covered with black paper and make your grad students poke holes matching the milky way and watch what happens" strategy didn't occur to you?

No, science is not infallible, particularly once human and institutional factors come into play; but falsifying hypotheses on animal navigation methods is hardly the most difficult challenge faced by the sciences. Want to fuck with an animal that you suspect of celestial navigation? Advanced 'planetarium' technology may be for you! Suspect pigeons of navigating with magnetic fields? Exploit natural variations in earth's magnetism or just superglue a NIB magnet to the insouciant little fucker's beak, that'll show 'im which way north is...

Good science? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42705483)

This sounds like shit science to me.

This must be where Apple got their maps (-1, Offtopic)

toygeek (473120) | about a year ago | (#42705547)

and explains why its a piece of crap

Re:This must be where Apple got their maps (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42706721)

lol

I have a very amazing and interesting reponse ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42705589)

but it's behind a paywall.

WTB a news site where one can actually *read* the articles ...

Re:I have a very amazing and interesting reponse . (4, Insightful)

lxs (131946) | about a year ago | (#42705677)

Welcome to Slashdot. Paywalls don't matter to us because reading the articles is frowned upon.

That doesn't stop us from bitching about them though.

Re:I have a very amazing and interesting reponse . (3, Informative)

SternisheFan (2529412) | about a year ago | (#42705737)

Ok, then there are other links to this...

http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2013/01/dung-beetle-astronomy/ [wired.com]

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-21150721 [bbc.co.uk]

http://www.cell.com/current-biology/retrieve/pii/S0960982212015072 [cell.com]

African dung beetles orient to the starry sky to move along straight paths The beetles do not orientate to the individual stars, but to the Milky Way Summary When the moon is absent from the night sky, stars remain as celestial visual cues. Nonetheless, only birds [1,2], seals [3], and humans [4] are known to use stars for orientation. African ball-rolling dung beetles exploit the sun, the moon, and the celestial polarization pattern to move along straight paths, away from the intense competition at the dung pile [5,6,7,8,9]. Even on clear moonless nights, many beetles still manage to orientate along straight paths [5]. This led us to hypothesize that dung beetles exploit the starry sky for orientation, a feat that has, to our knowledge, never been demonstrated in an insect. Here, we show that dung beetles transport their dung balls along straight paths under a starlit sky but lose this ability under overcast conditions. In a planetarium, the beetles orientate equally well when rolling under a full starlit sky as when only the Milky Way is present. The use of this bidirectional celestial cue for orientation has been proposed for vertebrates [10], spiders [11], and insects [5,12], but never proven. This finding represents the first convincing demonstration for the use of the starry sky for orientation in insects and provides the first documented use of the Milky Way for orientation in the animal kingdom.

http://www.cell.com/current-biology/retrieve/pii/S0960982212015072 [cell.com]

Re:I have a very amazing and interesting reponse . (3, Informative)

docmordin (2654319) | about a year ago | (#42705757)

Most, if not all authors, will be more than happy to send you the final copy of the manuscript if you email them, even if you aren't affiliated with a university or a researcher yet want still to learn about their work. In the case of old papers that can't be found on the Internet, which is common for some math journals that are no longer in print, I've found authors to be especially accommodating in sending hard copies.

Re:I have a very amazing and interesting reponse . (1)

SternisheFan (2529412) | about a year ago | (#42705921)

And sometimes they will send you cool links like this one that goes to the Lund University site...

http://www.lunduniversity.lu.se/ [lunduniversity.lu.se]

Re:I have a very amazing and interesting reponse . (2)

docmordin (2654319) | about a year ago | (#42706079)

If that's the case, you can grab the paper by Dacke, et al. from: https://mega.co.nz/#!ytIz2bpL!S2P0Nk4NigHmr4Y0keSURlNzNElroFnUzx23nqKG0js [mega.co.nz] and that of Wu and Dickman from: https://mega.co.nz/#!z5ohjYza!HZafDHCHTh8r1XcxKqOS6CuT4epGwK6PUh6ARCJbwd0 [mega.co.nz]

Re:I have a very amazing and interesting reponse . (1)

SternisheFan (2529412) | about a year ago | (#42706087)

And I do thank you for those links, please accept this smileyface as payment... :^)

That isn't news exactly... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42705665)

"And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs [reference points], and for seasons, and for days, and years: And let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth: and it was so." Gen 1:14-15

So here you have scientific confirmation and specification of Biblical information that has been in publication and circulation for centuries, millennia even.

Re:That isn't news exactly... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42705727)

I would just say "fuck your god," but I know it doesn't even exist so there is no point.

Re:That isn't news exactly... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42705767)

Off topic, but:

You say that you 'know' there is no God. Really??

Prove God does not exist. Until you can do that you are only stating your opinion, so I will state mine, which I also cannot 'prove'.

I know that God exists.

- - -

Don't worry if you don't believe in God. Just know that God believes in you. :^)

Re:That isn't news exactly... (1)

Jmc23 (2353706) | about a year ago | (#42705997)

If you 'knew' God exists, you could prove it. You believe.

In the understanding of god do we become god.

Re:That isn't news exactly... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42706123)

Nothing worthwhile in life comes to us easily. God is around and in you, but you really need to 'want' to know 'Him/Her/It'. God wants us to enjoy this temporary life we are granted here, learn what we need to learn (Do unto others... etc). Think of God as the 'Dean' of the 'college of life' who is rarely seen, but is working all the time behind the scenes for His/Her 'students'. And try to cut back on using the eff word, God don't like cursing connected with His/Her name.

This is the best I can do now to help you now in understanding God. Just because someone cannot provide tangible 'proof' that God exists does not mean God does not exist. Good luck to you.

P.S. ~(hint) God likes to be looked for by us. (hint)~

Even more amazing (2)

MichaelSmith (789609) | about a year ago | (#42705685)

...would be if the dung beetles could also navigate through the Galaxy.

Re:Even more amazing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42705969)

Do you realize how long that would take? Dung beetles only travel at approximately 0.4 Libraries of Congress per hour.

Re:Even more amazing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42706135)

Do you realize how long that would take? Dung beetles only travel at approximately 0.4 Libraries of Congress per hour.

But can they do the Kessel run in the same amount of LibrariesOfCongress? :)

Huh? (1)

RedHackTea (2779623) | about a year ago | (#42705741)

How do you use a candy bar to navigate?

Re:Huh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42705879)

With GPS of course [smartbuy.com]

Honestly I expected to find someone that made a compass out of a wrapper somewhere but alas the internet does not yet have everything.

Re:Huh? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42706731)

How do you use a candy bar to navigate?

Offer it to someone in return for directions?

What's the difference... (2)

Genda (560240) | about a year ago | (#42705841)

Between a dung beetle and a Congressman? The Dung Beetle has at least 53 neurons...

Re:What's the difference... (1)

Genda (560240) | about a year ago | (#42711339)

One is a dung munching, mindless, lower life form, and the other is a beetle?

From fusion to dung (1)

David Govett (2825317) | about a year ago | (#42705877)

Events of a million years ago are guiding dung beetles. Consider: The beetles are about 20,000 light-years from the galactic center, but it took the light's energy an average of about 1,000,000 years to randomly walk out of the stars.

Re:From fusion to dung (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42706733)

Learn about light-cones. That is all.

Starlight? (1)

DR.F33LG00D (2809487) | about a year ago | (#42705933)

What do they do when it's cloudy?

Re:Starlight? (1)

drankr (2796221) | about a year ago | (#42706735)

It's never cloudy in Africa.
Anyway, a study suggests... pfff. And even if someone could provide hard evidence, then what?
A part of the universe, in this case a beetle, acts as part of the universe, using the opportunities afforded it by its natural habitat, i.e., the universe.
Well I never.

The Research is a bit confusing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42705937)

It says that the dung beetles navigation was confused when the sky is obscured, so what about cloudy nights? Places like Seattle that overcast much of the time?

I'm mistrustful of the conclusion here a bit.

Re:The Research is a bit confusing (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42706117)

Research is about african dung beetles. Do you see them often near Seattle?

Re:The Research is a bit confusing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42706289)

It says that the dung beetles navigation was confused when the sky is obscured, so what about cloudy nights? Places like Seattle that overcast much of the time?

I'm mistrustful of the conclusion here a bit.

The authors of the study "theorize" and do not claim it's a fact, it's their best theorization at this point of their research.

Now the neurons? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42706293)

53 neurons behind a pay wall!?! Dang even the pigeons are IP hoarding bastards.

aaah, crap! (1)

roman_mir (125474) | about a year ago | (#42706347)

And I had to get an astronomy minor to go with my comsci major to get the degree, and here you have a freaking dung beetle using similar knowledge to haul shit around (really). I feel that I've been duped.

roman_mir lying again (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42707141)

And I had to get an astronomy minor to go with my comsci major to get the degree

why would you lie about this? you obviously did not complete or get far in to a science major or minor of any kind, as you have demonstrated by your total lack of understanding of even the most fundamental concepts of science. you went to one of the largest publicly-funded research universities in north america and obviously never passed a science, math, or economics course.

you could have constructed this joke without starting off with lies. why did you opt to do it this way?

From the low to the high (2)

taylorius (221419) | about a year ago | (#42706403)

It's gratifying that a humble creature that spends its days rolling dung about, can also reach for things on a cosmic scale.

The Lund University article... (2)

SternisheFan (2529412) | about a year ago | (#42706801)

You might expect dung beetles to keep their "noses to the ground", but they are actually incredibly attuned to the sky. Indeed, a report in the 24 January Current Biology, a Cell Press publication, shows that, even on the darkest of nights, African ball-rolling insects are guided by the soft glow of the Milky Way.

While birds and people are known to navigate by the stars, the discovery is the first convincing evidence for such abilities in insects, the researchers say. It is also the first known example of any animal getting around by the Milky Way as opposed to the stars.

"Even on clear moonless nights, many dung beetles still manage to orientate along straight paths," said Marie Dacke of Lund University in Sweden. "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."

Dacke and her colleagues found that dung beetles can transport their dung balls along straight paths under a starlit sky, but lose the ability under overcast conditions. In a planetarium, the beetles stayed on track equally well under a full starlit sky and one showing only the diffuse streak of the Milky Way.

That makes sense, the researchers explained, because the night sky is sprinkled with stars, but the vast majority of those stars should be too dim for the beetles' tiny compound eyes to see.

The findings raise the possibility that other nocturnal insects also use stars to guide them at night. On the other hand, dung beetles are pretty special. Upon locating a suitable dung pile, ball-rolling dung beetles shape a piece of dung into a ball and roll it away in a straight line. That behaviour guarantees them that they will not return to the dung pile, where they risk having their ball stolen by other beetles.

"Dung beetles are known to use celestial compass cues such as the sun, the moon and the pattern of polarised light formed around these light sources to roll their balls of dung along straight paths," Dacke said. "Celestial compass cues dominate straight-line orientation in dung beetles so strongly that, to our knowledge, this is the only animal with a visual compass system that ignores the extra orientation precision that landmarks can offer.

http://www.lunduniversity.lu.se/o.o.i.s?id=24890&news_item=5999 [lunduniversity.lu.se]

Top-notch work (1)

pz (113803) | about a year ago | (#42707329)

One of the authors of the pigeon study was an invited speaker last summer at a conference I organize. I have not yet read the paper, but the presentation was arguably the best recieved of the 23 oral presentations, generating vigorous, positive discussion that spilled into after-hours interaction. Very, very good stuff.

While it may also be true that pigeons also navigate by polarized light, the evidence presented for a magnetic sense is overwhelming.

You'll use the planetarium for WHAT!?! (1)

Rhacman (1528815) | about a year ago | (#42711393)

"The experiment was conducted both outdoors under the night sky, and inside a planetarium where researchers could manipulate the starlight and hone in on the specific cues that the dung beetles were using."

Scientist: "We'd like to use the planitarium for some exciting research! We'll need to bring in some beetles and some fresh elephant dun...."
Planitarium Curator: "No."
Scientist: "I can understand, but we'll make sure that..."
Curator: "No."
Scientist: "You didn't let me fin..."
Curator: "Get out. ... And don't touch anything!"
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