Bats navigate using Earth’s magnetic field

By | December 8, 2006

Bats navigate using Earths magnetic field

The mystery of how bats can navigate long distances in the dark may have been solved. Scientists believe big brown bats, Eptesicus fuscus, rely on the Earth’s magnetic field to keep their bearings as they swoop the night sky.

The team, writing in Nature, said the finding added to “the impressive array” of sensory abilities that the creatures use to steer in the dark. … Bats captured in a barn were exposed at dusk to an artificial magnetic field pointing east or west relative to the Earth’s magnetic North, while other captured bats were left unexposed. … “The control bats, relying on their natural magnetic field, headed south, directly towards home,” said Richard Holland, a visiting Marie Curie Research fellow at Princeton University and an author on the study. But those exposed to the artificial fields flew in the wrong direction. …

Given that it is possible to receive the signals of the transmitters used in our experiments from a low orbit satellite, it will hopefully soon be possible to track small animals, such as bats, birds and insects, globally with significant consequences for disease, agriculture and conservation.” -? bbc

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