A dung beetle that path integrates without the use of landmarks

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Unusual amongst dung beetles, Scarabaeus galenus digs a burrow that it provisions by making repeated trips to a nearby dung pile. Even more remarkable is that these beetles return home moving backwards, with a pellet of dung between their hind legs. Here, we explore the strategy that S. galenus uses to find its way home. We find that, like many other insects, they use path integration to calculate the direction and distance to their home. If they fail to locate their burrow, the beetles initiate a distinct looping search behaviour that starts with a characteristic sharp turn, we have called a ‘turning point’. When homing beetles are passively displaced or transferred to an unfamiliar environment, they initiate a search at a point very close to the location of their fictive burrow—that is, a spot at the same relative distance and direction from the pick-up point as the original burrow. Unlike other insects, S. galenus do not appear to supplement estimates of the burrow location with landmark information. Thus, S. galenus represents a rare case of a consistently backward-homing animal that does not use landmarks to augment its path integration strategy.

Details

Authors
Organisations
External organisations
  • University of the Witwatersrand
  • Julius Maximilian University of Würzburg
  • Stockholm University
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Zoology

Keywords

  • Dung beetle, Homing, Navigation, Path integration, Scarabaeus, Search
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1161-1175
Number of pages15
JournalAnimal Cognition
Volume23
Issue number6
Early online date2020
Publication statusPublished - 2020 Nov
Publication categoryResearch
Peer-reviewedYes