the african dung beetle navigates earth using the stars

The African Dung Beetle navigates Earth using the stars

Not sure what’s more amazing about the African dung beetle, one that it rolls immaculate balls out of other animals’ dung or that it navigates from home to manure piles and back via celestial cues.

“These clever insects use the polarized light of the moon to navigate in a straight line,” writes Popular Mechanics. “Their eyes cannot see individual stars but a group of stars together, like the Milky Way, is dense enough to create a luminous line for them to follow.”

No stars, no problem! When the sun gets blocked or is directly overhead, the beetle uses its antennae to perceive wind signals. This way it can roll across the desert without getting lost.

See also
Attenborough’s fan-throated lizard

But entomologist and photographer Piotr (Peter) Naskrecki of the Wilson Biodiversity Laboratory at Gorongosa National Park in Mozambique believes the Kheper subaeneus beetles are more interesting for what they do for mother Earth. 

Few animals are as important to the African savanna ecosystem as the dung beetles and without their thankless toil the entire ecosystem would soon collapse, covered in a thick layer of waste. 

Piotr Naskrecki

Keep in mind that the gathered feces, which the palm-sized creature rolls into big balls, often weigh more than the beetle itself.

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