While locating one’s latitudinal location is not a problem, determining one’s longitudinal location could be quite difficult. It took scientists a long period of time to accurately identify a person’s location. People who navigate the seas used to have difficulties finding their location. Explorers later on devised the use of time keeping to solve this dilemma.
Birds however seem to have learned way ahead of us. They journey long distances yearly and always gets to their destinations accurately. How do they do that? Do they know the map? Have you ever wondered how birds find their way when migrating from one place to another?
Previous studies have suggested that birds and other creatures uses the Earth’s magnetic field as a way to traverse. But these studies have not really determined how exactly it works. Scientists have been trying to discover the mechanisms.
Recently, experts have just found out that migratory birds use the geomagnetic map on their journey. They have the ability to detect the difference in location of the true north pole and the geomagnetic north. These birds use this ability to approximate their position hence helping them orient themselves to their destinations.
A recent experiment was conducted by Richard Holland and Dmitri Kishkiniev of Bangor on mature Reed warblers on their yearly migration from Russia to Africa. During this study, the researches captured mature and immature Reed warblers temporarily in specialized cages and studied their reactions under controlled magnetic fields. They found out through this experiment that a slight change on the magnetic field can elicit substantial reactions on the birds.
Furthermore, the same change did not have similar effects on immature birds. They did not adjust properly to the changes in the magnetic signal. Rather they were confused indicating that this innate reaction is learnt by the mature birds through years of experience.
This innate sense, combined with other factors such as the physical environment and wind direction helps the birds migrate to faraway places.
There are still a lot of questions that are left unanswered about how these migratory birds and other animals learn to explore around. They also still have to find out whether or not other birds and animals also use the same sense. But these findings are very important in understanding their migratory characteristics.
And maybe in the future, we might find this information useful in human navigation. We may probably try to consider using this magnetic fields in aerial, nautical, and terrestrial transport systems and even in simple daily activities, such as navigating through a new place in an while riding streetstrider elliptical bike.
The useful ideas could be countless and hundreds of studies has to be done but with the rate that science is on nowadays, it is not an impossibility.