Besides the obvious fact that they eat, well, dung, the act of just getting a meal is an involved process.
In the most elaborate carry-out scenario, the dung beetles must first stake claim to their piece of poop at the main dung pile, then shape it into a sphere for easy transport, fend off other dung beetles trying to steal it, and then — using the stars to navigate — determine the fastest way to roll their prize away to a safe spot for consumption.
But now, researchers from Lund University in Sweden say one part of this process might not be as taxing for the dung beetles as previously thought: The celestial navigation.
In a study published in the scientific journal Current Biology, researchers say dung beetles take "snapshots" of the stars and store the images in their brains.
Instead of using the stars — specifically the Milky Way — as a map that the beetles intermittently reference for directions, the researchers say dung beetles take one snapshot of the constellation, which is sufficient for navigation.
One of the researchers, Basil el Jundi, explains in a press release that the snapshot method for orientation allows the beetles to be more efficient because they don't have to rely on long processes to retrieve information.
"We are the first to have shown that dung beetles are taking these snapshots. We are also the first to show how they store and use the images inside their tiny brains," el Jundi says in the statement.
Researchers say the beetles make the snapshot while "dancing" atop their ball of dung. As the Two-Way previously reported, this poop-pile jig helps the beetles determine which path away from the dung is the best route...