Dung Beetles Follow the Milky Way: Insects Found to Use Stars for Orientation

Jan. 24, 2013 — An insect with a tiny brain and minimal computing power has become the first animal proven to use the Milky Way for orientation. Scientists from South Africa and Sweden have published findings showing the link between dung beetles and the spray of stars which comprises our galaxy.

The dung beetle is the first animal proven to use the Milky Way for orientation. (Credit: Emily Baird)

Although their eyes are too weak to distinguish individual constellations, dung beetles use the gradient of light to dark provided by the Milky Way to ensure they keep rolling their balls in a straight line and don’t circle back to competitors at the dung pile.

“The dung beetles don’t care which direction they’re going in; they just need to get away from the bun fight at the poo pile,” said Professor Marcus Byrne from Wits University.

Byrne and his team previously proved that dung beetles use the sun, the moon and polarised light for orientation. In their experiments, they gave the beetles “caps” which blocked light from reaching their eyes. The team also discovered that the beetles climb on top of their dung balls to perform an orientation “dance” during which they locate light sources to use for orientation.

Now, further experiments, conducted under the simulated night sky of the Wits Planetarium, have shown that the beetles also use the Mohawk of the Milky Way — giving new meaning to dancing with the stars!

“We were sitting out in Vryburg (conducting experiments) and the Milky Way was this massive light source. We thought they have to be able to use this — they just have to!” said Byrne.

Not all light sources are equally useful landmarks for a dung beetle. A moth keeping a constant angle between itself and a candle flame will move in a circle around the flame. However, a celestial body is too far away to change position relative to a dung beetle as it rolls its ball, with the result that the beetle keeps travelling in a straight line.

The scientists suspect the beetles have a hierarchy of preference when it comes to available light sources. So if the moon and the Milky Way are visible at the same time, the beetles probably use one rather than the other.

A few other animals have been proven to use stars for orientation, but the dung beetle is the first animal proven to use the galaxy.


Story Source:

The above story is reprinted from materials provided byWits University, via AlphaGalileo.

Note: Materials may be edited for content and length. For further information, please contact the source cited above.


Journal Reference:

  1. Marie Dacke, Emily Baird, Marcus Byrne, Clarke H. Scholtz, Eric J. Warrant. Dung Beetles Use the Milky Way for OrientationCurrent Biology, 2013; DOI:10.1016/j.cub.2012.12.034
Wits University (2013, January 24). Dung beetles follow the milky way: Insects found to use stars for orientation. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 28, 2013, from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/01/130124123203.htm

Lose Fat Faster Before Breakfast

Jan. 24, 2013 — People can burn up to 20% more body fat by exercising in the morning on an empty stomach, according to new research from Northumbria University.


 

In a study published online in theBritish Journal of Nutrition on January 24, academics sought to find out whether the known benefits of exercising after an overnight fast were undermined by an increased appetite and eating more food later in the day.

Researchers, led by Dr Emma Stevenson and PhD student Javier Gonzalez, asked twelve physically active male participants to perform a bout of treadmill exercise at 10am, either after they had eaten breakfast or in a fasted state having not eaten since the evening before.

Following the exercise all participants were given a chocolate milkshake recovery drink. Later in the day, participants were provided with a pasta lunch which they were asked to consume until they felt ‘comfortably full’. Their lunchtime consumption of energy and fat was assessed and calculated, taking into account the amount of energy and fat burned during the morning period.

The researchers discovered that those who had exercised in the morning did not consume additional calories or experience increased appetite during the day to compensate for their earlier activity.

They also found that those who had exercised in a fasted state burned almost 20% more fat compared to those who had consumed breakfast before their workout. This means that performing exercise on an empty stomach provides the most desirable outcome for fat loss.

Javier Gonzalez, who is currently undertaking a PhD in Exercise and Metabolism, said: “In order to lose body fat we need to use more fat than we consume. Exercise increases the total amount of energy we expend and a greater proportion of this energy comes from existing fat if the exercise is performed after an overnight fast.

“Our results show that exercise does not increase your appetite, hunger or food consumption later in the day and to get the most out of your session it may be optimal to perform this after an overnight fast.”

Dr Emma Stevenson, Senior Lecturer in Sport and Exercise Nutrition and Associate Director of Northumbria University’s Brain, Performance and Nutrition Research Centre, added: “This research is very important in helping to provide practical guidelines relating to food intake to individuals who are exercising to maximise fat mass loss. It must be highlighted that this is a short-term study and we can only speculate on the longer term outcomes of such nutritional practices.”

 

Story Source:

The above story is reprinted from materials provided byNorthumbria University.

Note: Materials may be edited for content and length. For further information, please contact the source cited above.


Journal Reference:

  1. Javier T. Gonzalez, Rachel C. Veasey, Penny L. S. Rumbold, Emma J. Stevenson. Breakfast and exercise contingently affect postprandial metabolism and energy balance in physically active malesBritish Journal of Nutrition, 2013; : 1 DOI: 10.1017/S0007114512005582
Northumbria University (2013, January 24). Lose fat faster before breakfast. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 28, 2013, from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/01/130124091425.htm