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Bat orientation using Earth's magnetic field

Nature volume 444, page 702 (07 December 2006) | Download Citation



Bats famously orientate at night by echolocation1, but this works over only a short range, and little is known about how they navigate over longer distances2. Here we show that the homing behaviour of Eptesicus fuscus, known as the big brown bat, can be altered by artificially shifting the Earth's magnetic field, indicating that these bats rely on a magnetic compass to return to their home roost. This finding adds to the impressive array of sensory abilities possessed by this animal for navigation in the dark.

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Author information


  1. *Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey 08544, USA

    • Richard A. Holland
    • , Kasper Thorup
    •  & Martin Wikelski
  2. †Institute of Integrative and Comparative Biology, University of Leeds, Leeds LS2 9JT, UK

    • Richard A. Holland
  3. ‡Zoological Museum, Institute of Biology, University of Copenhagen, 2100 Copenhagen, Denmark

    • Kasper Thorup
  4. §Center for Macroecology, Institute of Biology, University of Copenhagen, 2100 Copenhagen, Denmark

    • Kasper Thorup
  5. Department of Biological Sciences, Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, Michigan 49008, USA

    • Maarten J. Vonhof
  6. ¶Illinois Natural History Survey, Champaign-Urbana, Illinois 61820, USA

    • William W. Cochran


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Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Richard A. Holland.

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