Marcus Byrne is fascinated by the way insects, particularly the intrepid dung beetle, have hardwired solutions to the challenges posed by their environments. Could they help humans solve problems?
Marcus Byrne is professor of zoology and entomology at Wits University in Johannesburg, South Africa. His research explores what humans can learn from insects. One of the big questions he's focused on: how can we control alien weeds, which threaten biodiversity? Byrne believes that insects may hold the 'magic bullet' for how to restrain the growth of these plants, which jockey for resources with native flora and fauna.
Byrne's work has also focused on the unique mechnics of the dung beetle. His research has shown that the dung beetle has a highly effective visual navigation system, that allows them to roll balls of animal dung with precision back to their home, even in the dark of night and the hottest of conditions. Byrne wonders: can this beetle teach humans how to solve complex visual problems?