Celestial Rotation: Its Importance in the Development of Migratory Orientation

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Science  11 Dec 1970:
Vol. 170, Issue 3963, pp. 1198-1201
DOI: 10.1126/science.170.3963.1198


Three groups of indigo buntings were hand-raised in various conditions of visual isolation from celestial cues. When they had been prevented from viewing the night sky prior to the autumn migration season, birds tested under planetarium skies were unable to select the normal migration direction. By contrast, when they had been exposed as juveniles to a normal, rotating, planetarium sky, individuals displayed typical southerly directional preferences. The third group was exposed to an incorrect planetarium sky in which the stars rotated about a fictitious axis. When tested during the autumn, these birds took up the "correct" migration direction relative to the new axis of rotation. These results fail to support the hypothesis of a "genetic star map." They suggest, instead, a maturation process in which stellar cues come to be associated with a directional reference system provided by the axis of celestial rotation.

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