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Orientation & navigation

Many animals possess impressive navigation abilities enabling them to migrate long distances between areas of importance for their survival. An extensive part of these movements is related to the animals’ ability to keep track of its position relative to a goal and to move in the appropriate direction, to navigate. In other situations animals only need to find out in which direction to move, to orientate.
For orientation animals have access to a number of biological compasses, based on information from the sun and the related pattern of skylight polarization, stars and the geomagnetic field. Research within the framework of CAnMove focuses on the functional characteristics of different compasses as well as on their inter-relationship and calibrations.
To navigate, animals use a number of additional cues apart from their biological compasses. Cues and movement strategies that have been shown to be of importance for navigating animals are geo-centered information (maps based on geomagnetic field gradients and odours) and ego-centered information (such a keeping track of the animals own movements, path integration).
We use various methods to study these phenomena, for example, circular cages and behavioural observations of birds, ringing recoveries, satellite telemetry, tracking radar, radio telemetry and computer simulations.

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Orientation cages
Bird cage used to shift the polarization pattern relative to the geomagnetic field, to investigate what cues the birds used for orientation. Photo: Rachel Muheim

Centre for Animal Movement Research
Evolutionary Ecology, Department of Biology
Ecology building S-223 62 Lund Sweden