Max Planck scientists discover new sensory capability in a mammal
Animals can use varying sensory modalities for orientation, some of which might be very different from ours. Some bird species for example take the polarization pattern produced by sunlight in the atmosphere to calibrate their orientation systems.
Now researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Seewiesen, Germany, and Queen’s University Belfast have discovered with colleagues from Israel that a night active mammal, the greater mouse-eared bat, has the capability to orient using polarized light. These bats use the polarization pattern of the evening sky to calibrate their inner compass.
In the course of evolution manifold sensory systems developed which allowed animals varying possibilities to perceive their environment. Many insect species for example, but also some fish, amphibians, reptiles and birds can see polarized light. Polarized light forms as a result of sunlight being scattered in the atmosphere.
The sky’s polarization pattern can be used by animals as a compass, well-known examples being the orientation of honeybees, desert ants or migratory birds. Even humans can perceive polarized light to some degree.
Subject to certain conditions we can see a so called Haidinger’s brush, a diffuse yellowish form, which however, has no known function. The fact that mammals can also make use of this sensory perception was not known so far.
An international team of bat researchers including Stefan Greif from the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology, Seewiesen, and from the Queen’s University Belfast now found exactly that.
Their study shows that the greater mouse-eared bat (Myotis myotis) can use the polarized light of the evening sky to calibrate their orientation system, which is based on the Earth’s magnetic field.
The researchers caught 70 female mouse-eared bats in a cave in North-eastern Bulgaria. During dusk they exposed half of the bats to a polarization direction which was shifted 90 degrees from the natural spectrum.
The other half of the animals was placed in similar experimental boxes but with a natural polarization direction. Long after nightfall the bats were brought to two different sites some 20 kilometres away from their home roost. There they were released after the scientists equipped them with tiny radio transmitters to follow their flight trajectories on their way back to the cave.
Those animals that experienced a 90 degrees shifted polarization pattern at sunset, vanished in a direction which deviated about 90 degrees from the control group. With this simple experiment the researchers showed for the first time that bats can use the polarization pattern of the evening sky to calibrate their inner compass for orientation. The precise mechanism however, is still unknown so far.
“Further behavioural and physiological studies are necessary to understand this fascinating new sensory capability”, says Stefan Greif, lead author of this study.
Stefan Greif | Max-Planck-Institute
Transport of molecular motors into cilia
28.03.2017 | Aarhus University
Asian dust providing key nutrients for California's giant sequoias
28.03.2017 | University of California - Riverside
The Institute of Semiconductor Technology and the Institute of Physical and Theoretical Chemistry, both members of the Laboratory for Emerging Nanometrology (LENA), at Technische Universität Braunschweig are partners in a new European research project entitled ChipScope, which aims to develop a completely new and extremely small optical microscope capable of observing the interior of living cells in real time. A consortium of 7 partners from 5 countries will tackle this issue with very ambitious objectives during a four-year research program.
To demonstrate the usefulness of this new scientific tool, at the end of the project the developed chip-sized microscope will be used to observe in real-time...
Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.
The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.
Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...
Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.
Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...
In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...
20.03.2017 | Event News
14.03.2017 | Event News
07.03.2017 | Event News
28.03.2017 | Life Sciences
28.03.2017 | Information Technology
28.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy