South Africa: Dung Beetles Point Way for Machine Learning & Other Ground-Breaking Wits Research

The discovery by Wits University and an international team of Swedish biologists from Lund University – that dung beetles use different directional sensors to achieve the highest possible navigational precision in different conditions – has broken new ground for Artificial Intelligence (AI), Robotics and Machine Learning.

Have you ever wondered why dung beetles don’t get lost, even when they navigate vast expanses backwards?

A research team led by Marie Dacke, professor of Sensory Biology at Lund University and renowned biology researcher and Professor Marcus Byrne from Wits asked and answered this question. Their discovery of how the dung beetles’ wind compass complements the sun compass, rolls on some fundamental lessons for better data prioritisation and navigation.


Dung beetles have a fall-back system of compass cues that they can switch between, dependent on which one is providing the most reliable information for orientation, says Professor Byrne, who has collaborated with Dacke for almost 20 years on dung beetle orientation.

“This is the first study that shows how an animal’s biological compass can integrate different directional sensors, in this case wind and sun, in a flexible way. This enables the highest possible precision at all times,” says Dacke….


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