Confused Bird Compasses

Anthropogenic Low-Frequency Electromagnetic Signals can foul up Migrating Birds’ Compasses, a Study Finds.

By Rina Shaikh-Lesko | May 9, 2014

Electromagnetic “noise” from human development may confuse the internal compasses of migratory birds, according to a study published this week (May 7) in Nature. A team led by Henrik Mouritsen of the University of Oldenburg in Germany stumbled across the finding after running into repeated problems with an experiment looking at orienting behaviors in European robins ran. The robins didn’t orient as expected and it was only when the researchers introduced a Faraday cage—a metal screen with a grounding wire—where the birds were housed that they were able to use their internal compasses again.

Scientists are slowly uncovering the workings of many animals’ ability to sense magnetic fields and navigate by them, or magentoreception. The nature of the electromagnetic radiation affecting Mourtisen’s robins was perplexing, however, because it was at a wavelength much lower than what scientists have predicted as having a biological effect—in the range of AM radio waves.   …more



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