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Magnetic information affects the stellar orientation of young bird migrants

Nature volume 383, pages 158160 (12 September 1996) | Download Citation

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Abstract

WHEN young birds leave on their first migration, they are guided by innate information about their direction of migration. It is generally assumed that this direction is represented twice, namely with respect to celestial rotation and with respect to the Earth's magnetic field1,2. The interactions between the two cue systems have been analysed by exposing hand-raised young birds during the premigratory period to cue-conflict situations, in which celestial rotation and the magnetic field provided different information. Celestial rotation altered the course with respect to the magnetic field3–7, whereas conflicting magnetic information did not seem to affect the course with respect to the stars8,9. Celestial information thus seemed to dominate over magnetic information. Here we report that the interaction between the two cue systems is far more complex than this. Celestial rotation alone seems to provide only a tendency to move away from its centre (towards geographical south), which is then modified by information from the magnetic field to establish the distinctive, population-specific migratory direction.

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Affiliations

  1. Fachbereich Biologie der Universität Frankfurt a.M., Zoologie, Siesmayerstrasse 70, D 60054 Frankfurt a.M., Germany

    • Peter Weindler
    • , Roswitha Wiltschko
    •  & Wolfgang Wiltschko

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DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/383158a0

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