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Author Dacke, M.; Byrne, M.J.; Baird, E.; Scholtz, C.H.; Warrant, E.J.
Title How dim is dim? Precision of the celestial compass in moonlight and sunlight Type Journal Article
Year 2011 Publication Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological Sciences Abbreviated Journal Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci
Volume 366 Issue 1565 Pages 697-702
Keywords Animals; Beetles/*physiology; Behavior, Animal; *Moon; *Sunlight; Video Recording
Abstract Prominent in the sky, but not visible to humans, is a pattern of polarized skylight formed around both the Sun and the Moon. Dung beetles are, at present, the only animal group known to use the much dimmer polarization pattern formed around the Moon as a compass cue for maintaining travel direction. However, the Moon is not visible every night and the intensity of the celestial polarization pattern gradually declines as the Moon wanes. Therefore, for nocturnal orientation on all moonlit nights, the absolute sensitivity of the dung beetle's polarization detector may limit the precision of this behaviour. To test this, we studied the straight-line foraging behaviour of the nocturnal ball-rolling dung beetle Scarabaeus satyrus to establish when the Moon is too dim--and the polarization pattern too weak--to provide a reliable cue for orientation. Our results show that celestial orientation is as accurate during crescent Moon as it is during full Moon. Moreover, this orientation accuracy is equal to that measured for diurnal species that orient under the 100 million times brighter polarization pattern formed around the Sun. This indicates that, in nocturnal species, the sensitivity of the optical polarization compass can be greatly increased without any loss of precision.
Address Department of Biology, University of Lund, Helgonavagen 3, 223 62 Lund, Sweden. marie.dacke@cob.lu.se
Corporate Author Thesis
Publisher Place of Publication (up) Editor
Language English Summary Language Original Title
Series Editor Series Title Abbreviated Series Title
Series Volume Series Issue Edition
ISSN 0962-8436 ISBN Medium
Area Expedition Conference
Notes PMID:21282173; PMCID:PMC3049003 Approved no
Call Number IDA @ john @ Serial 34
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