Sharks can detect changes in the geomagnetic field by Dr G Meyer, Dr N Holland and Mr P Papastamatiou
Scientists have long suspected that sharks are able to use the earth's magnetic field to navigate across seemingly featureless oceans but until now evidence of this 'compass sense' has been circumstantial. We showed that captive sharks can be trained to swim over a target whenever an artificial magnetic field is activated thereby clearly demonstrating that sharks can sense magnetic fields. This significant advance in demonstrating the existence of a compass sense should now make it possible to investigate exactly how this sense works and how sensitive sharks are to the earth's magnetic field.
Contact: Dr Carl Meyer, Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology, University of Hawaii, 46-007 Lilipuna Road, KANEOHE, HI96744, United States
Proceedings of The Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Homing pigeons develop local route stereotypy by Dr J Meade, Dr D Biro and Dr T Guilford
The navigational feats of birds have fascinated humans for centuries. Much has now been discovered about the mechanisms birds use to navigate over unknown territory. How birds develop a map of their familiar environment however, remains unsolved. We investigated local navigation by homing pigeons, by using recently available GPS tracking technology, which provides details of a bird's route over the landscape with extraordinary precision. We find that birds develop and stick to individually distinctive routes home, which remain surprisingly indirect, repeating these routes precisely. Our results call into question the established view that pigeons use only their compasses from familiar locations, suggesting instead that their familiar area map is based on the use of visual landmarks.
Contact: Dr Jessica Meade, Department of Zoology, University of Oxford, South Parks Road, Oxford, OX1 3PS
Contact: Tim Watson