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, and 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 with thousands of beetles vying 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.
 
Now, 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 -- a lodestar -- to show them the way, but the dung beetle's eyes aren't sensitive enough.
 
Instead, they use the Milky Way, and this bright band helps them walk a straight line out of the dung heap and -- as sure as night is dark -- away from the competition.
 
On a good day -- or, night -- a single beetle can move about 250 times its own weight in poop, recycling a whole lot of nutrients back into the soil.
 
It kind of makes you wonder what'll happen if all the stars become obscured 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 (46)
  • dianner-2-bar
    10/21/2015 - 07:06 p.m.

    You can use the sun to navigate by seeing what direction the sun rises. I found it a lot interesting because i thought the moon was the only thing that helped you now where your going and that humans and other animals also use it.

  • annabel1226-yyca
    10/21/2015 - 07:43 p.m.

    I never knew that dung beetles uses stars to find out their way. I think they are really rare this year, because I didn't see the dung beetle for a while. When I was in Kindergarten I went to my church, and sometimes I poke the dung beetles with a stick. After a while, my eyes started to hurt that day I regret it because I touched the dung beetle with my bare hand. I hope there will be a lot of dung beetles. Also I never knew that dung beetle's poop was good for soil. There are many colors of dung beetles, there are turquoises, black, bluish colors. My favorite color of the dung beetle were turquoise dung beetles. Next year, (if there are a lot of dung beetles) I would not poke the dung beetle with the sticks. I won't poke it with the stick because I would feel bad if I were a dung beetle, and I was getting poked by a stick.

  • Steve0620-yyca
    10/21/2015 - 08:21 p.m.

    I think that it is amazing that many animals can use the stars to navigate their way to places. One animal in particular is the dung beetle. It used the moon, stars, and sun to go in a straight line while rolling the poop. It is important that the dung beetles will get its share of the loot or poop because it is necessary for them. I didn't know that animals such as the dung beetle, seals, and birds can use the stars to navigate their way to places.

  • wesw2-
    10/22/2015 - 08:16 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.

  • carsonk-2-bar
    10/22/2015 - 09:07 p.m.

    You can use the sun to navigate by looking at and going in a straight line. "Now, during the day, the beetles can use the sun to help them walk a straight line" This article was very interesting because I did not know that other living creatures use the stars and sun to travel. This surprised because of the same reason.

  • carlosp-6-bar
    10/22/2015 - 09:54 p.m.

    We can use the sun navigate because it always rises in the same place and sets in the same place so then we can use that to know that you are going in a straight line no the opposite way.
    I think this arrival is good because i didn't know that other animals use the stars to navigate and its interesting.

  • sydneym-3-bar
    10/23/2015 - 01:56 a.m.

    For many years, humans have used the stars to guide us to wherever we want to go. But we are not the organisms using the star as a sense of direction, birds and seals use it too.
    Just recently, scientists have discovered that dung beetles use them as well. They use the Milky Way to walk in a strait line away from dung piles in the dark away from the competition. You can use the sun to navigate by seeing which way the sun is going. IF the sun is going down, that direction is west, and if the sun is rising, the direction is east.

  • justiny-2-bar
    10/23/2015 - 10:03 a.m.

    You can use the sun to navigate by looking at where it rises and sets to find out witch way is north, west, south, and east. I found it surprising that dung beetles use the stars to navigate.

  • seanj-ver
    10/23/2015 - 02:37 p.m.

    One of the stars that helps lead things to a right place is the North Star. It is one of the most bright stars. I did not know that dung beetles used the stars to help them navigate around.

  • elijahb-6-bar
    10/23/2015 - 05:07 p.m.

    Beetles us the suns line to navigate their way. I think this is pretty cool that beetles can use this method to get their way to their destination.

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