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Second star to the right, and keep rolling that dung ball ‘til morning


Competing for the attention of the ladies is no easy task for any species, but when you’re trying to do it by rolling around a big ball of crap, it can be an uphill battle on multiple fronts.

As with many mating rituals, the male dung beetle likes to get down to business in the dark, scurrying up to the dung club, making his move (aka, creating a ball of poo), and then rolling that baby to where the ladies can admire his handiwork.

The problem is, competition is fierce by the pile and the last thing a dung beetle needs is to be rolling his prize right back to his competition. So, what’s a beetle on the make to do?

Though scientists originally suspected beetles used the Moon to guide their efforts, it turns out their wishes were being granted by the stars, instead.

The discovery that dung beetles use starlight “was an accident more than anything,” explains study author Eric Warrant, professor of zoology at the Lund University in Sweden. His research group was studying how the beetles used the polarized light patterns of the moon to stay on their paths, when one moonless night they made a surprising observation—the beetles maintained straight trajectories. “Even without the moon—just with the stars—they were still able to navigate,” Warrant says. “We were just flabbergasted.”

Though such behavior has been observed in other animals, this is the first time it’s been seen in insects, and who would’ve dreamed the most starry-eyed bugs in the kingdom were dung beetles?

Go figure.

Full story at Science.

Wonders of nature.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

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