How Dung Beetles Steer Straight

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

Abstract

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.

Details

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

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Zoology

Keywords

  • celestial, central complex, compass, dung beetle, navigation, orientation
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)243-256
Number of pages14
JournalAnnual Review of Entomology
Volume66
Publication statusPublished - 2021
Publication categoryResearch
Peer-reviewedYes