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

Assign to Google Classroom

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.

Filed Under:  
Assigned 226 times
CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
How can you use the sun to navigate?
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (136)
  • genevieveb-6-bar
    10/22/2015 - 07:53 p.m.

    One can use the sun to navigate by looking at its position in the sky. In the middle of the article, it states, "During the day the beetles can use the sun to help them walk a straight line" (paragraph 6). Since dung beetles use the sun to walk in a straight line during the day, an observer can only assume that this is done through the use of the sun's placement in the sky, because, since the sun moves in a straight line, the beetle (and therefore, humans) can follow the sun to move in a perfect line as well. People can use the sun's path and placement in the sky to travel by following the star.

    This article surprised me because I never knew that dung beetles could see the Milky Way clear enough at all, let alone to follow its line!

  • wesw2-
    10/22/2015 - 08:14 p.m.

    Yes you can use the sun to navigate because you can tell which direction things are by checking the position of the sun against the shadows of an object.

  • Jason0421-YYCA
    10/22/2015 - 08:16 p.m.

    I think that it is interesting for dung beetles to be using the Milky Way to find out how to get out of a huge dung pile. I thought that dung beetles didn't know how to do anything, but then I learned that dung beetles are decently smart. I wouldn't believe that dung beetles would use the Milky Way as we humans used the stars to navigate since dung beetles live in dung.

  • raymunda-4-bar
    10/22/2015 - 08:44 p.m.

    You can use the sun to navigate by, where the sun rises, it is always on the east and where the sun sets, it is always going west. It seems interesting that a diverse species of animals uses stars for direction, dung beetles and seals.What shocked me is that dung beetles can actually see stars and use them as a guide.

  • gregorys-6-bar
    10/22/2015 - 09:27 p.m.

    The sun sets in the west so if it's early in the morning the sun is to the east while in the afternoon the sun is setting in the west. This explains why the nettles move in a straight line because the sun is moving in a straight line. I think that this article is unsurprising but still cool as it shows how a certain animal uses the sun, but I wished it went deeper into those other animals.

  • jennaw-1-bar
    10/22/2015 - 09:33 p.m.

    I can use the sun to navigate by telling time. Something surprising I learned that beetles use the sun to walk in a straight line.

  • oliviam-6-bar
    10/22/2015 - 10:24 p.m.

    One way to use the sun to navigate through the day is by following it in a strait line. That way, you won't start walking in circles.

  • luket-4-bar
    10/22/2015 - 11:10 p.m.

    If you know that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, you can assume the direction you are facing. I thought this was interesting because i had never realized that other animals could use the stars to navigate.

  • tylera-1-bar
    10/22/2015 - 11:14 p.m.

    You can use the sun to navigate because the sun rises in the east and sets in the west therefore giving you directions. I chose this article because I thought it was interesting that other types of species use the stars and sun to navigate.

  • stonep-6-bar
    10/22/2015 - 11:46 p.m.

    You could use the sun to navigate by looking at it in the morning by knowing where the East is so you could navigate where you are going. You could also look at it while it is setting in the West knowing where the West is you could also navigate where you go.

Take the Quiz Leave a comment
ADVERTISEMENT