Marcus Byrne

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?

Why you should listen

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?


What others say

“The discovery marks the first example of an insect using a mobile thermal refuge in this way. It is also a demonstration of the remarkably sophisticated strategies that insects and other cold-blooded creatures employ to maintain their body temperatures.” — Science Daily

Marcus Byrne’s TED talk

More news and ideas from Marcus Byrne


7 talks that contain fascinating facts about beetles

December 13, 2012

Marcus Byrne begins today’s talk with the words:  “What I want to do today is share my passion for poo with you.” But before you delve into a Freudian analysis, you should probably know that Byrne is an entomologist who studies dung beetles, of which there are about 6,000 species across the planet. As Byrne […]

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