Birds Can Switch Their Natural GPS On and Off as Needed

By: | June 3rd, 2023

Image by Pixabay

The Earth’s magnetic field, also known as the geomagnetic field, plays a crucial role in navigation. Unlike humans, birds navigate without external devices, relying on their innate ability to interpret the Earth’s magnetic field for directions.

Many animals, including salmon, sea turtles, and migratory birds, rely on Earth’s magnetic field for navigation during their long-distance migrations. This phenomenon is known as magnetoreception.

Migratory birds can navigate over tens of thousands of miles with abilities that surpass the accuracy achieved by human navigators.

Recent ground-breaking research conducted at the University of Western Ontario’s Western’s Advanced Facility for Avian Research (AFAR) has unveiled a fascinating revelation regarding birds.

The research was focused on white-throated sparrows.

The researchers found that the birds possess the astonishing ability to activate a specific neural mechanism, essentially flipping a brain switch, to process or ignore geomagnetic information. Researchers studied cluster N, the brain region processing navigational information from Earth’s magnetic field.

White-throated sparrows were found activating cluster N at night during migration and allowing it to go dormant during rest periods. This showcases their ability to selectively utilize the brain region for processing magnetic field information.

Nidhi Goyal

Nidhi is a gold medalist Post Graduate in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences.

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