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New paper on compass mechanisms in migrating birds

A central question in bird magration is what compass mechanism, celestial or geomagnetic, is activated during long flights. In a recent paper in Journal of Comparative Physiology A, Susanne Åkesson and Giuseppe Bianco review several previous results and evaluate if one or several alternative compass mechanisms can explain migration routes in birds.
Caspian tern

Abstract: Different approaches based on the geometry of flight routes across the globe and route simulations based on predictions from compass mechanisms with or without including the effect of winds have been used to try to answer this question with varying results. A major focus has been use of orthodromic (great circle) and loxodromic (rhumbline) routes using celestial information, while geomagnetic information has been proposed for both a magnetic loxodromic route and a magnetoclinic route. Here, we review previous results and evaluate if one or several alternative compass mechanisms can explain migration routes in birds. We found that most cases could be explained by magnetoclinic routes (up to 73% of the cases), while the sun compass could explain only 50%. Both magnetic and geographic loxodromes could explain <25% of the routes. The magnetoclinic route functioned across latitudes (1°S–74°N), while the sun compass only worked in the high Arctic (61–69°N). We discuss the results with respect to orientation challenges and availability of orientation cues.

To the paper: "Route simulations, compass mechanisms and long-distance migration flights in birds"

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Centre for Animal Movement Research
Evolutionary Ecology, Department of Biology
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