Backpacks on Seabirds Hint at Their Navigation Secret
Shearwaters navigate the open ocean based on their memories of smells that waft in from different directions, a new study suggests.
The nose knows—smells point many an animal in the right direction. But for birds, the roles that smells may or may not play in navigation has long been up in the air.
Now, flocks of GPS-wearing seabirds add to growing evidence that birds not only follow their noses, but also remember smells like directions. (Read "Secrets of Animal Navigation" in National Geographic magazine.)
New data suggest these outfitted birds, called shearwaters, seem to know where they're going based on their memories of smells that waft in from different directions, according to a study published June 30 in Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
Shearwaters belong to the same family group as petrels and albatrosses. During breeding season, the animals