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J Exp Biol. 2013 Aug 1;216(Pt 15):2798-805. doi: 10.1242/jeb.085738.

Oceanic navigation in Cory's shearwaters: evidence for a crucial role of olfactory cues for homing after displacement.

Author information

1
Department of Biology, University of Pisa, Via Volta 6, 56126 Pisa, Italy. agagliardo@biologia.unipi.it

Abstract

Pelagic birds, which wander in the open sea most of the year and often nest on small remote oceanic islands, are able to pinpoint their breeding colony even within an apparently featureless environment, such as the open ocean. The mechanisms underlying their surprising navigational performance are still unknown. In order to investigate the nature of the cues exploited for oceanic navigation, Cory's shearwaters, Calonectris borealis, nesting in the Azores were displaced and released in open ocean at about 800 km from their colony, after being subjected to sensory manipulation. While magnetically disturbed shearwaters showed unaltered navigational performance and behaved similarly to unmanipulated control birds, the shearwaters deprived of their sense of smell were dramatically impaired in orientation and homing. Our data show that seabirds use olfactory cues not only to find their food but also to navigate over vast distances in the ocean.

KEYWORDS:

navigation; olfaction; seabirds

PMID:
23842626
DOI:
10.1242/jeb.085738
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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