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Dung beetles ignore landmarks for straight-line orientation

  • Marie Dacke
  • Marcus Byrne
  • Jochen Smolka
  • Eric Warrant
  • Emily Baird
Publishing year: 2012
Language: English
Pages: 17-23
Publication/Series: Journal of Comparative Physiology A
Volume: 199
Document type: Journal article
Publisher: Springer

Abstract english

Upon locating a suitable dung pile, ball-rolling

dung beetles shape a piece of dung into a ball and roll it

away in a straight line. This guarantees that they will not

return to the dung pile, where they risk having their ball

stolen by other beetles. Dung beetles are known to use

celestial compass cues such as the sun, the moon and the

pattern of polarised light formed around these light sources

to roll their balls of dung along straight paths. Here, we

investigate whether terrestrial landmarks have any influence

on straight-line orientation in dung beetles. We find

that the removal or re-arrangement of landmarks has no

effect on the beetle’s orientation precision. Celestial compass

cues dominate straight-line orientation in dung beetles

so strongly that, under heavily overcast conditions or when

prevented from seeing the sky, the beetles can no longer

orient along straight paths. To our knowledge, this is the

only animal with a visual compass system that ignores the

extra orientation precision that landmarks can offer.


  • Biological Sciences
  • Dung beetle
  • Scarabaeidae
  • Scarabaeinae
  • Landmark
  • Orientation


  • Lund Vision Group
  • ISSN: 1432-1351
Emily Baird
E-mail: emily [dot] baird [at] biol [dot] lu [dot] se


Functional zoology

+46 46 222 96 18

+46 72 700 55 55



Research group

Lund Vision Group


Doctoral students and postdocs

PhD Students, main supervisor

Pierre Tichit

PhD Students, assistant supervisor

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