How a beetle can use the stars to navigate its way across the vast deserts of Africa

It might look small and insignificant but the dung beetle has its sights set firmly on the stars.

Expert navigator: New research has found that scarabs – also known as dung beetles – find their way through their desert habitat by using the stars of the Milky Way as a reference

The beetle is the first insect proven to use the light of the Milky Way to help steer its course.

Also known as the scarab, the tiny creatures feed on animal droppings, which they fashion into a ball and roll away to a safe spot where it is less likely to be stolen.

Although their eyes are too weak to distinguish individual constellations, scientists found they used the glow of the Milky Way to navigate in a straight line, ensuring they do not circle back to the dung-heap and potential competitors.

‘Even on clear, moonless nights, many dung beetles still manage to orientate along straight paths,’ said Dr Marie Dacke from Lund University in Sweden.

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