Lund University researchers win Ig Nobel Prize

Three biology researchers from Lund University have won an Ig Nobel Prize for their sensational studies of dung beetles’ ability to navigate using the light of the stars. The winners were announced at a humorous gala ceremony in the US on Thursday evening.

Dung beetle

Prizewinning dung beetle research

Earlier this year, Lund University researchers Marie Dacke, Eric Warrant and Emily Baird published their new findings about the dung beetle’s talents. Their research showed that dung beetles can use the light of the Milky Way to navigate in the dark. The research results, which were achieved with two South African researchers, represented the first evidence that animals have this navigational ability.

The research team have now been recognised for their achievement at a light-hearted ceremony at Harvard University in the US. Genuine Nobel Prize winners present the prizes at the ceremony. The Ig Nobel Prize is awarded by an American organisation that wants to awaken interest in science, medicine and engineering by honouring strange and amusing contributions to research.

Marie Dacke, one of the winning researchers from Lund, commented on the prize:

How does it feel to have won this prize?

“It feels very encouraging, because the criteria are ‘achievements that first make people laugh, and then make them think’. To have succeeded with both of these with our research project is fantastic.”

What is the best thing about the prize?

“That our research will be brought to the attention of a wider audience. And the glory, of course!”

Why are you so interested in dung beetles?

“These insects offer a fantastic opportunity to understand how animals can navigate in their surroundings. The principles we study in dung beetles are not only limited to these organisms, but rather apply generally to many migrating and navigating animals.”

What do you think are your success factors?

“Within the research group, we have a broad range of specialisms that we combine to understand how biological compasses are structured and function, and dung beetles are ideal models that we can manipulate in many different ways without affecting their innate behaviour. The general public can easily relate to the ball-rolling behaviour we study in these animals and then get drawn in to the experiments and studies we do. Moreover, this research even makes us laugh and think.”

What happens now that you have won this prize?

“We are celebrating with a very lively ceremony in Boston and then we’ll see where it takes us!”

Watch the ceremony online:

Watch Marie Dacke's TEDx Lund University talk: