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Bangor University researchers solving the mystery of migrating mammals

How do mammals navigate when they migrate? That’s the question researchers at Bangor University are trying to solve.

We know more about how birds and reptiles and fish navigate than we do about mammals like whales or wildebeest, but one part of the puzzle is being revealed.

The researchers caught tiny soprano pipistrelle bats, weighing just 6g, flying from the Baltic coast. They discovered the bats used the setting sun to get their sense of direction.

Setting sun.

When they used a mirror to reflect the sun the bats flew in the opposite direction. Those bats whose internal compass had been changed, had their natural navigation system re-set at the next dusk, to continue their journey.

We know very little about the mechanisms used by migrating mammals, but it’s easier to work with small bats than it is with larger mammals. Studying bats as a ‘model’ can provide us with a greater understanding of the different mechanisms used by mammals to navigate over large distances.

Bats themselves play such an important role, their consumption of insects is highly valuable to our farming, and though invaluable, calculated to be worth a hypothetical $ 1.75 million to the economy.”

– DR RICHARD HOLLAND, BANGOR UNIVERSITY

The results are reported in Current Biology.

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