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Navigating the most challenging habitats on earth:unravelling the architecture of a universal compass system

Project information

Grant agreement ID: 817535

Status

Ongoing project

  • Start date

    1 June 2019

  • End date

    31 May 2024

Funded under:

H2020-EU.1.1.

  • Overall budget:

    € 1 994 225

  • EU contribution

    € 1 994 225

Hosted by:

LUNDS UNIVERSITET

Sweden

Objective

When lost in the desert at night, or in dense forests, people tend to walk in circles. This is because the seemingly simple act of walking in a straight line involves a complex interplay of various sensory modalities, the motor system and cognition. A ball-rolling dung beetle released in the same type of uncharted territory, does not walk in circles, but rather keeps steadfastly to a chosen bearing. The main goal of this project is unravel the sensory and neuronal architecture of the newly discovered ‘snapshot compass’, that supports orientation over all continents and terrestrial habitats on earth (except Antarctica). This goal will be realized through a fusion of biology, bio-informatics and mathematics.

A quickly growing pool of studies indicates that neuronal networks are modulated in a context-dependent manner. Therefore, to truly understand how this compass works, and to formulate the core computational algorithms underlying this remarkable system, I aim to obtain the first ever brain recordings from the compass of a freely orienting insect. Is this possible? Certainly! But only in an animal with a robust orientation behaviour, and that is strong enough to carry a little backpack of electronics. The large dung-beetles, with their easily manipulated orientation behavior, offers a unique opportunity to attain this holy grail of neuroethology.

The beetle’s compass makes use of a large range of celestial cues, which can vary drastically in availability and strength. While the challenge of cue integration has been solved effectively in the compass system of the beetles, it remains a key problem within the field of cognition and perception, as well as for the design of artificial intelligence systems. Taken together, almost two decades of studies of the dung beetle compass system have paved the way for this timely and unique opportunity, that will impact the advancement of science well outside the field of biology.
Leaflet | Map data © OpenStreetMap contributors, Credit: EC-GISCO, © EuroGeographics for the administrative boundaries

Host institution

LUNDS UNIVERSITET

Address

Paradisgatan 5c
22100 Lund

Sweden

Activity type

Higher or Secondary Education Establishments

EU Contribution

€ 1 805 301,25

Beneficiaries (2)

LUNDS UNIVERSITET

Sweden

EU Contribution

€ 1 805 301,25

THE UNIVERSITY OF EDINBURGH

United Kingdom

EU Contribution

€ 188 923,75

Project information

Grant agreement ID: 817535

Status

Ongoing project

  • Start date

    1 June 2019

  • End date

    31 May 2024

Funded under:

H2020-EU.1.1.

  • Overall budget:

    € 1 994 225

  • EU contribution

    € 1 994 225

Hosted by:

LUNDS UNIVERSITET

Sweden