The case for infrasound as the long-range map cue in avian navigation



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Of the various 'map' and 'compass' components of Kramer's avian navigational model, the long-range map component is the least well understood. In this paper atmospheric infrasounds are proposed as the elusive longrange cues constituting the avian navigational map. Although infrasounds were considered a viable candidate for the avian map in the 1970s, and pigeons in the laboratory were found to detect sounds at surprisingly low frequencies (0.05 Hz), other tests appeared to support either of the currently favored olfactory or magnetic maps. Neither of these hypotheses, however, is able to explain the full set of observations, and the field has been at an impasse for several decades. To begin, brief descriptions of infrasonic waves and their passage through the atmosphere are given, followed by accounts of previously unexplained release results. These examples include 'release-site biases' which are deviations of departing pigeons from the homeward bearing, an annual variation in homing performance observed only in Europe, difficulties orienting over lakes and above temperature inversions, and the mysterious disruption of several pigeon races. All of these irregularities can be consistently explained by the deflection or masking of infrasonic cues by atmospheric conditions or by other infrasonic sources (microbaroms, sonic booms), respectively. A source of continuous geographic infrasound generated by atmosphere-coupled microseisms is also proposed. In conclusion, several suggestions are made toward resolving some of the conflicting experimental data with the pigeons' possible use of infrasonic cues.

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Publication type:
Conference Paper
Publication Subtype:
Conference Paper
The case for infrasound as the long-range map cue in avian navigation
1604232862; 9781604232868
Year Published:
Larger Work Title:
Proceedings of the Annual Meeting - Institute of Navigation
First page:
Last page:
Conference Title:
63rd Annual Meeting of the Institute of Navigation 2007
Conference Location:
Cambridge, MA
Conference Date:
23 April 2007 through 25 April 2007