How Dung Beetles Steer Straight

Marie Dacke, Emily Baird, Basil El Jundi, Eric J. Warrant, Marcus Byrne

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Distant and predictable features in the environment make ideal compass cues to allow movement along a straight path. Ball-rolling dung beetles use a wide range of different signals in the day or night sky to steer themselves along a fixed bearing. These include the sun, the Milky Way, and the polarization pattern generated by the moon. Almost two decades of research into these remarkable creatures have shown that the dung beetle's compass is flexible and readily adapts to the cues available in its current surroundings. In the morning and afternoon, dung beetles use the sun to orient, but at midday, they prefer to use the wind, and at night or in a forest, they rely primarily on polarized skylight to maintain straight paths. We are just starting to understand the neuronal substrate underlying the dung beetle's compass and the mystery of why these beetles start each journey with a dance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)243-256
Number of pages14
JournalAnnual Review of Entomology
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Zoology


  • celestial
  • central complex
  • compass
  • dung beetle
  • navigation
  • orientation


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