Are humans the only animals who use the stars to navigate? Dung beetles, like the one seen in the picture, also use stars to navigate. (Thinkstock)
Are humans the only animals who use the stars to navigate?
Lexile

You asked us, "Are humans the only animals who use the stars to navigate?"
 
For thousands of years, humans have been looking to the heavens for help with directions. It turns out, all that time we weren't alone in looking up. Some birds and even seals have been shown to use the stars for navigation.
 
And now, new research has added one more lofty animal to the group. Wait for it . . . the dung beetle.
 
Apparently dung piles are kind of like war zones. Thousands of beetles are fighting for their share of the spoils.
 
So it's pretty important that the African ball-rolling species be able to quickly escape with its loot.
 
During the day the beetles can use the sun to help them walk a straight line. And at night, the moon comes in handy.
 
But why, you ask? That's when those relentless rollers turn to the stars for help.
 
Humans, birds and seals all use a single star. It's a lodestar and it shows them the way. But the dung beetle's eyes aren't sensitive enough.
 
So instead, they use the Milky Way. This bright band helps them walk a straight line out of the dung heap. And as sure as night is dark they walk away from the competition.
 
On a good day or night, a single beetle can move about 250 times its own weight in poop. It's recycling a whole lot of nutrients back into the soil.
 
It kind of makes you wonder what'll happen if all the stars become hidden by light pollution and dung beetles start to lose their way.

We'll probably be up to our necks in it.  Literally.

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
How can you use the sun to navigate?
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (133)
  • John0724-YYCA
    10/21/2015 - 07:44 p.m.

    I now know that some other animals and insects use the stars to help them navigate but I wonder how they use them. If you see them following the stars I think they just follow it without knowing where there going. I want to learn how to navigate with stars just in case I get lost and I don't have a map or a compass.

  • colek-1-bar
    10/21/2015 - 09:21 p.m.

    I can use the sun to navigate by knowing that the sun rises in the East and sets is the West. Using that knowledge, I can navigate using East and West. I found this article very interesting. I was very surprised that a creature so little and insignificant uses the stars to navigate its way, just like humans do.

  • william1108-yyca
    10/21/2015 - 09:49 p.m.

    WOW! I never knew that other animals like seals use the stars at night for navigation. I though that humans can only use the stars or the milky way for navigation. But now that I have read this article I now know that other animals or insects like seals or dung beetles use the stars or the milky way to navigate.

  • Eric0221-YYCA
    10/21/2015 - 11:03 p.m.

    I think that it is cool because we aren't the only ones to be looking at the stars to navigate through the way because seals and birds had used the star to navigate through the night and even dung beetles can navigate through the night. The dung beetle's eye sight is poor though but it can still be able to navigate through the night.

  • kaleal-2-bar
    10/21/2015 - 11:13 p.m.

    The sun can be used to help me walk in a straight line. This article is very cool because I never expected dung beetles to have such an awesome power-or how important they are.

  • katherinec-3-bar
    10/22/2015 - 12:47 a.m.

    You can use the sun to help you navigate because if you keep walking towards the su you will walk in a straight line. I found this article interesting but I wish there would have been more information on how beetles use the sun to navigate.

  • rorys-1-bar
    10/22/2015 - 11:50 a.m.

    You can use the sun to navigate by walking in a straight line. The article states that the dung beetle "During the day the beetles can use the sun to help them walk in a straight line."

  • wittel,joel-cas
    10/22/2015 - 11:55 a.m.

    1. The sun can be used to help animals and people walk in straight lines to either escape other competition looking for their same food source or for migration.

    2. I think that the use of stars to help animals is very important for their survival. I think humans need to keep the sky's clear of pollutants to help these animals preserve their ways of life.

  • holdenv-day
    10/22/2015 - 12:02 p.m.

    There are many questions we ask and we still are looking for the answers. This question however has been answered. Its so cool how animals and humans use the same way to navigate. We don't give them enough credit they are very smart. This was a great article.

  • jareds-1-cam
    10/22/2015 - 02:22 p.m.

    You can use the sun to navigate the directions in which
    you are going, because the sun rises in the East and sets
    in the West.

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