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Curr Biol. 1998 Oct 8;8(20):R731-8.

Sensory bases of navigation.

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Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey 08544-1003, USA.


Navigating animals need to know both the bearing of their goal (the 'map' step), and how to determine that direction (the 'compass' step). Compasses are typically arranged in hierarchies, with magnetic backup as a last resort when celestial information is unavailable. Magnetic information is often essential to calibrating celestial cues, though, and repeated recalibration between celestial and magnetic compasses is important in many species. Most magnetic compasses are based on magnetite crystals, but others make use of induction or paramagnetic interactions between short-wavelength light and visual pigments. Though odors may be used in some cases, most if not all long-range maps probably depend on magnetite. Magnetitebased map senses are used to measure only latitude in some species, but provide the distance and direction of the goal in others.

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