People have been admiring the rituals the migratory birds follow each season. Their wings enable them to leave their homes for the better prospects of warmer or colder parts of the world. Nonetheless, they always come back to the place they first created a bond with. This romantic picture led people to believe that these birds were following their innate orientation senses to reach their destination without a map. However, science has just suggested that bird navigation is actually dependent on a common sense we all have, namely smell.
Scientists Temporarily Disabled the Sense of Smell in Migratory Birds and Tracked Their Moves
Migratory birds are willing to fly for days thousands of miles across the sea without losing sight of their target. For instance, the Arctic tern likes the British summer, yet it travels to the Antarctic for the duration of winter. Scientists have been intrigued by this flawless ritual that repeats without delays each year.
New research indicates that the amazing skills birds have that encompass even a GPS are actually coming from their sense of smell. A team of scientists at the Universities of Pisa, Barcelona, and Oxford carried out some experiments to prove this idea. Therefore, they temporarily erased the sense of smell from birds before starting tracking their moves.
Experiment Suggests Bird Navigation Relies Heavily on a Map of Smells
By proceeding this way, researchers discovered an interesting fact about bird navigation. While the winged beings were able to perform just fine on land, they shortly became disoriented when flying deep across the ocean. This little experiment indicates that birds have imprinted in their minds a map of smells that help them exit successfully from the blue labyrinth of the ocean.
Lead author Oliver Padget at the Department of Zoology at Oxford University claimed that this is the first study of its kind. That’s because it brought indubitable proof regarding the importance of olfactory sense for birds. Previous studies indicated that without smell, birds lose the homing ability. However, critics argued that such deprivation could impair the ability to find food. This was not the case in this study.
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