Pigeons Use Right Nostril to Sniff Their Way Home

01/28/2011

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Homing pigeons have the uncanny ability to always find their way home, and it turns out that its sense of smell may be the key. Researchers in Italy report in the "Journal of Experimental Biology" that pigeons develop their sense of direction through familiar odors. They found that when pigeons couldn't breathe--specifically, when their right nostrils were blocked--the birds had trouble tracking their path home.

Read more at BBC Earth.

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Scientists say that pigeons create a mental map of smells to help guide them to landmarks and return to the lofts where they were born. When researchers blocked the right nostril in some birds they took much longer and more arduous routes home.

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Past research on pigeon homing has shown that pigeons are tuned to the Earth’s magnetic field, giving them an internal GPS to help guide them home.

Photo Credits: DLILLC/Corbis | Charles Milligan/Getty Images | Stockbyte/Thinkstock |


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