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Feasibility of sun and magnetic compass mechanisms in avian long-distance migration

Muheim, Rachel LU ; Schmaljohann, Heiko and Alerstam, Thomas LU (2018) In Movement Ecology 6(1).
Abstract

Birds use different compass mechanisms based on celestial (stars, sun, skylight polarization pattern) and geomagnetic cues for orientation. Yet, much remains to be understood how birds actually use these compass mechanisms on their long-distance migratory journeys. Here, we assess in more detail the consequences of using different sun and magnetic compass mechanisms for the resulting bird migration routes during both autumn and spring migration. First, we calculated predicted flight routes to determine which of the compasses mechanisms lead to realistic and feasible migration routes starting at different latitudes during autumn and spring migration. We then compared the adaptive values of the different compass mechanisms by calculating... (More)

Birds use different compass mechanisms based on celestial (stars, sun, skylight polarization pattern) and geomagnetic cues for orientation. Yet, much remains to be understood how birds actually use these compass mechanisms on their long-distance migratory journeys. Here, we assess in more detail the consequences of using different sun and magnetic compass mechanisms for the resulting bird migration routes during both autumn and spring migration. First, we calculated predicted flight routes to determine which of the compasses mechanisms lead to realistic and feasible migration routes starting at different latitudes during autumn and spring migration. We then compared the adaptive values of the different compass mechanisms by calculating distance ratios in relation to the shortest possible trajectory for three populations of nocturnal passerine migrants: northern wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe, pied flycatcher Ficedula hypoleuca, and willow warbler Phylloscopus trochilus. Finally, we compared the predicted trajectories for different compass strategies with observed routes based on recent light-level geolocation tracking results for five individuals of northern wheatears migrating between Alaska and tropical Africa. We conclude that the feasibility of different compass routes varies greatly with latitude, migratory direction, migration season, and geographic location. Routes following a single compass course throughout the migratory journey are feasible for many bird populations, but the underlying compass mechanisms likely differ between populations. In many cases, however, the birds likely have to reorient once to a few times along the migration route and/or use map information to successfully reach their migratory destination.

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Please use this url to cite or link to this publication:
author
; and
organization
publishing date
type
Contribution to journal
publication status
published
subject
keywords
Bird migration, Magnetic compass, Orientation, Sun compass
in
Movement Ecology
volume
6
issue
1
article number
8
publisher
BioMed Central (BMC)
external identifiers
  • pmid:29992024
  • scopus:85048072557
ISSN
2051-3933
DOI
10.1186/s40462-018-0126-4
project
Centre for Animal Movement Research
language
English
LU publication?
yes
id
1dcbe258-7f13-4a86-be41-f6b156b638ca
date added to LUP
2018-06-19 12:32:40
date last changed
2020-10-27 01:56:08
@article{1dcbe258-7f13-4a86-be41-f6b156b638ca,
  abstract     = {<p>Birds use different compass mechanisms based on celestial (stars, sun, skylight polarization pattern) and geomagnetic cues for orientation. Yet, much remains to be understood how birds actually use these compass mechanisms on their long-distance migratory journeys. Here, we assess in more detail the consequences of using different sun and magnetic compass mechanisms for the resulting bird migration routes during both autumn and spring migration. First, we calculated predicted flight routes to determine which of the compasses mechanisms lead to realistic and feasible migration routes starting at different latitudes during autumn and spring migration. We then compared the adaptive values of the different compass mechanisms by calculating distance ratios in relation to the shortest possible trajectory for three populations of nocturnal passerine migrants: northern wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe, pied flycatcher Ficedula hypoleuca, and willow warbler Phylloscopus trochilus. Finally, we compared the predicted trajectories for different compass strategies with observed routes based on recent light-level geolocation tracking results for five individuals of northern wheatears migrating between Alaska and tropical Africa. We conclude that the feasibility of different compass routes varies greatly with latitude, migratory direction, migration season, and geographic location. Routes following a single compass course throughout the migratory journey are feasible for many bird populations, but the underlying compass mechanisms likely differ between populations. In many cases, however, the birds likely have to reorient once to a few times along the migration route and/or use map information to successfully reach their migratory destination.</p>},
  author       = {Muheim, Rachel and Schmaljohann, Heiko and Alerstam, Thomas},
  issn         = {2051-3933},
  language     = {eng},
  month        = {06},
  number       = {1},
  publisher    = {BioMed Central (BMC)},
  series       = {Movement Ecology},
  title        = {Feasibility of sun and magnetic compass mechanisms in avian long-distance migration},
  url          = {http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s40462-018-0126-4},
  doi          = {10.1186/s40462-018-0126-4},
  volume       = {6},
  year         = {2018},
}