At night while you’re looking up at the sky and contemplating your purpose here on planet Earth, let alone, in the entire universe, there are other little guys out there, too, gazing upon the Milky Way for some insight. Or perhaps in this particular case, for a little foresight.
By the light emitted from Earth’s very own galaxy, dung beetles are guided as they roll their most precious food source (none other than balls of yummy dung!) across the South African game reserve Stonehenge, protecting their nourishment from the night’s many predators.
Scientists from Switzerland who conducted the study first took notice to this phenomenon when they saw the dung beetles were able to travel long distances in perfectly straight lines on nights when there was virtually no moon glow. How were they able to know where “straight” was, let alone maintain a steady onward path?
Well, it turns out the Milky Way’s light takes much of the credit here due to its near-perfect straight line of light, making it much easier to keep these dung balls away from thieves and travel in complete darkness.
Dung beetles aren’t the only ones who seek the sky at night for guidance. Bradley Mullens, an entomologist at UC Riverside said he, “would not be surprised if other nocturnal insects — or maybe other animal groups — might be able to use a diffuse but directional cue such as the Milky Way[.] […] Maybe this paper will stimulate more studies of that nature.”
Birds, seals, and butterflies are some animals known to use the galaxy’s star pattern as a compass. And in the case of the dung beetles, for rolling around their oh so very precious poo.
(via Slash Gear)