Monday, January 28, 2013
A Dung Beetle: The smallest astronomer
Scarabaeus zambesianusNew research shows that when the moon isn't visible the dung beetle can use the Milky Way as a reference frame.
To test the beetles the researchers used a planetarium, changing which stars were visible. Without the Milky Way the beetles were unable to walk in a straight line. So, even though the beetle's eyes are not sophisticated enough to see individual stars, the bright streaks of the Milky Way are enough to guide it. It makes me wonder if the beetle enjoys looking at the stars or just sees a map when it looks up.