Ancient civilizations couldn’t figure out how animals came and went with the seasons. They came up with all kinds of stories.
But the truth behind navigation turned out to be way better than anything they could have imagined. Bobolinks take an annual trip of more than 12,000 miles. Monarch butterflies bat their wings for up to 6,000 miles.
With no GPS, how are they doing it? Lots of animals get their major move on using these three tools:
1. Sun compass
2. Stars. Most migrating songbirds travel by night. They learn constellation patterns and orient to those patterns. Light pollution throws a monkey wrench in their plans.
3. Magnetic fields.
Check our facts!
K. Able, Gathering of Angels: Migrating Birds and Their Ecology. Comstock Publishing, 2003.
W. Hamilton, III, The Auk. Vol. 79, No. 2 (April 1962), pp. 208-233.
O. Taylor, Monarch Butterfly: Top Ten Facts. April 2009.
W. M. Hamner, P.P. Hamner, S.W. Strand, Sun-compass Migration by Aurelia aurita: Population Retention and Reproduction in Saanich Inlet, British Columbia. June 1994, Volume 199, Issue 3, pp. 347-356.
All About Birds. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
Poot, H., B. J. Ens, H. de Vries, M. A. H. Donners, M. R. Wernand, and J. M. Marquenie. 2008. Green light for nocturnally migrating birds. Ecology and Society 13(2): 47.
W. Wiltschko, U. Munro, H. Ford, R. Wiltschko, Aviation Orientation: The Pulse Effect Is Mediated by the Magnetite Receptors in the Upper Beak. March 2009, Vol. 276, No. 1665, pp. 227-2232.
Shark migrations are pretty amazing, too!
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