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Identifying volatile organic compounds used for olfactory navigation by homing pigeons

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Zannoni,  Nora
Atmospheric Chemistry, Max Planck Institute for Chemistry, Max Planck Society;

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Seghetti,  Chiara
Atmospheric Chemistry, Max Planck Institute for Chemistry, Max Planck Society;

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Wang,  Nijing
Atmospheric Chemistry, Max Planck Institute for Chemistry, Max Planck Society;

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Edtbauer,  Achim
Atmospheric Chemistry, Max Planck Institute for Chemistry, Max Planck Society;

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Williams,  Jonathan
Atmospheric Chemistry, Max Planck Institute for Chemistry, Max Planck Society;

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Citation

Zannoni, N., Wikelski, M., Gagliardo, A., Raza, A., Kramer, S., Seghetti, C., et al. (2020). Identifying volatile organic compounds used for olfactory navigation by homing pigeons. Scientific Reports, 10(1): 15879. doi:10.1038/s41598-020-72525-2.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0007-70FD-E
Abstract
Many bird species have the ability to navigate home after being brought to a remote, even unfamiliar location. Environmental odours have been demonstrated to be critical to homeward navigation in over 40 years of experiments, yet the chemical identity of the odours has remained unknown. In this study, we investigate potential chemical navigational cues by measuring volatile organic compounds (VOCs): at the birds’ home-loft; in selected regional forest environments; and from an aircraft at 180 m. The measurements showed clear regional, horizontal and vertical spatial gradients that can form the basis of an olfactory map for marine emissions (dimethyl sulphide, DMS), biogenic compounds (terpenoids) and anthropogenic mixed air (aromatic compounds), and temporal changes consistent with a sea-breeze system. Air masses trajectories are used to examine GPS tracks from released birds, suggesting that local DMS concentrations alter their flight directions in predictable ways. This dataset reveals multiple regional-scale real-world chemical gradients that can form the basis of an olfactory map suitable for homing pigeons.