Modelling collective navigation via non-local communication

A recent paper called “Modelling collective navigation via non-local communication”
has been published by S. T. Johnston(1) and K. J. Painter(2).

They tell us that a group of individuals produce better navigational results than
individuals which is why flocks of birds are more efficient than a solo migrant. The
RAF confirms this where they have found that a more than one navigator does
a better job.

Collective migration occurs throughout the animal kingdom, and demands both the
interpretation of navigational cues and the perception of other individuals within the
group. Navigational cues orient individuals towards a destination, while it has been
demonstrated that communication between individuals enhances navigation through
a reduction in orientation error.

We develop a mathematical model of collective navigation that synthesises navigational cues and perception of other individuals. Crucially, this approach incorporates uncertainty inherent to cue interpretation and perception in the decision making process, which can arise due to noisy environments.

We demonstrate that collective navigation is more efficient than individual navigation, provided a threshold number of other individuals are perceptible. This benefit is even more pronounced in low navigation information environments. In navigation ‘blindspots’, where no information is available, navigation is enhanced through a relay that connects individuals in information- poor regions to individuals in information-rich regions. As an expository case study, we apply our framework to minke whale migration in the northeast Atlantic Ocean, and quantify the decrease in navigation ability due to anthropogenic noise pollution.

1 Systems Biology Laboratory, School of Mathematics and Statistics, and Department of Biomedical Engineering, University of Melbourne, Parkville, Victoria 3010, Australia
2 Dipartimento Interateneo di Scienze, Progetto e Politiche del Territorio (DIST) Politecnico di Torino, Viale Pier Andrea Mattioli, Torino 39 10125, Italy

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New Study Fuels Debate About Source of Birds’ Magnetic Sense

animal avian beak bird
Photo by Pixabay on

This link gives you a very good overview of the latest arguments about whether Cryptochromes,  which are sensitive to magnetic fields and exist in the eyes of birds, help with their navigation.  All the great and good involved in this field are quoted.  I personally do not think that the quantum effects in a Cryptochrome can exist in the “noisy” high temperature environment of the eye of a bird.

Richard Nissen

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Magnetic Compass Orientation

This paper is a very good overview of the thinking about avian migratory navigation and acknowledges that birds use all the cues that are available to them to navigate successfully.

Magnetic Compass Orientation in a Palaearctic–Indian Night Migrant, the Red-Headed Bunting


The earth’s magnetic field, celestial cues, and retention of geographical cues en route provide birds with compass knowledge during migration. The magnetic compass works on the direction of the magnetic field, specifically, the course of the field lines. We tested Red-headed Buntings in orientation cages in the evening during spring migration. Simulated overcast testing resulted in a northerly mean direction, while in clear skies, birds oriented in an NNW (north–northwest) direction. Buntings were exposed to 120° anticlockwise shifted magnetic fields under simulated overcast skies and responded by shifting their orientation accordingly. The results showed that this Palaearctic night migrant possesses a magnetic compass, as well as the fact that magnetic cues act as primary directional messengers. When birds were exposed to different environmental conditions at 22 °C and 38 °C temperatures under simulated overcast conditions, they showed a delay in Zugunruhe (migratory restlessness) at 22 °C, while an advance migratory restlessness was observed under 38 °C conditions. Hot and cold weather clearly influenced the timing of migrations in Red-headed Buntings, but not the direction.

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Dolphins and Bats: Superpower

Dolphins and bats don’t have much in common, but they share a superpower: Both hunt their prey by emitting high-pitched sounds and listening for the echoes. Now, a study shows that this ability arose independently in each group of mammals from the same genetic mutations.

For more reading follow this link:

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Cuckoo Migration, a theory 2021

In January 2021 I had the opportunity to have another test of my theory that migratory animals (fledgling cuckoos) use an innate sense of direction to find their way to their destination.

I did a zoom presentation to some of the best dowsers in Britain and asked them to track the routes followed by fledgling cuckoos to their wintering grounds in Africa, using a map.  We all know that the fledgling cuckoos launch themselves into the air alone and fly to their wintering ground in Central Africa.  There are several routes but all have changes of direction and stops to “re-fuel” in order to complete their journeys.  But how do you inherit a route and destination like this?

Astonishingly many of the group were able to do dowse cuckoo routes even when I did not tell them where the cuckoos were going to.  What I wanted to do is see if the dowsers could  tune into a fledgling cuckoo and travel with them to their destination.  

This pre-supposes that the fledgling cuckoos are following a dowsable paths (a route that they have inherited and can feel).  There is ample evidence that all animals can sense their way but, of course, they always access as many other cues as they can pick up to help them on their way: Navigation is difficult!

My contention is that when they leave the nest, the fledgling cuckoo flies around until they plug into the Universal Information Field which tells them where to  go.

I am a member of RIN (the Royal Institute of Navigation) who send me regular updates on all the the relevant Academic work being done in Navigation. At the moment most of the people working on Animal Navigation are biologists and have not great knowledge of Physics and Quantum Mechanics.  I think that dowsers have unknowingly been accessing Quantum effects for ever

The theory that I am struggling to test is that migratory animals inherit a sense of direction to go to their breeding grounds and return, and when to set out for their journeys too. When a new place is found then over time we see the migratory destinations move from old locations to new ones.  This fits perfectly with dowsing theories that old pathways are erased and new ones built up by the passing of many individuals.

Recently we have seen a lot of academic research on mathematics, recently there as an article in the New Scientist New Scientist 2 May:  “Here, There everywhere?  Our best mathematical model of consciousness might imply everything has got it” The dowsing fraternity have always talked about the Universal Information Field, which must be different words for  the same thing.  Quantum Mechanics talks about an universal information database that records everything and consciousness seems to fit this model.  In all the quantum work there is no sense of time.  Passed time only tells us that all the possible outcomes that existed have coalesced into one outcome in the universe in which we operate.

The difficulty is that Dowsing is an instinct, a moment , when we are allowed into the Universal database.  It never works in the presence of sceptic, especially those working  in Classic Science so they are  not able to compute dowsing skills and all the analytical learning, which classic science demands, makes you unable to dowse because analysis has crowded out, the surprise of intuition.

My take on this situation is that dowsers can and regularly do access the the universal consciousness (information field) in just the quirky way that Quantum Mechanics works to make a mockery of our certainties in classic Science.

My contention is that dowsers have since eternity, found a way to access the data we need.  It is manifest in Navigation and in my opinion is everywhere and with the rise rise of our understanding of our quantum world,  we will have proof that we and every animal can plug in to the Universal Information Field to navigate by.  Some Aborigines can still  do it but we have mostly lost the art.

More on Cuckoo Migration here.

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Investigating factors influencing initial orientation in nocturnally fledging seabirds

Please note that Tom Guildford is a very important Animal Navigation professor working at Oxford University.  Manx Shearwaters have been extensively studied as they have amazing navigational skills but do not seems to rely on magnetism.

Richard Nissen

fledgling seabirds

This is a summary of a paper protected by copyright: 
Syposz, M., Padget, O., Wynn, J., Gillies, N., Fayet, A. L. & Guilford, T. 2020
An assay to investigate factors influencing initial orientation in nocturnally fledging seabirds. Journal of Avian Biology online early. doi: 10.1111/jav.02613. Syposz1 2020 

The first solitary migration of juvenile birds is difficult to study because of a low juvenile survival rates and sometimes long delays in return to the breeding grounds. Consequently, little is known about this crucial life event for many bird species, in particular the sensory guidance mechanisms facilitating the first migratory journey. Initial orientation during the first migration is a key measure to investigate these mechanisms.

Here, we developed an assay to measure initial orientation as flight direction upon first take-off in nocturnally fledging juvenile seabirds. We dorsally deployed a coloured LED on juvenile birds to allow researchers to observe the vanishing bearings of individuals as they flew out to sea.

Additionally, we co-deployed either a small Neodymium magnet or glass bead (control) on top of the bird’s head to investigate the use of magnetoreception, previously unexplored in this early life stage.

We used this assay to observe the first flight of Manx shearwaters (Puffinus puffinus) and found that they did not orient towards their wintering ground straight after taking off. Further, we did not find an effect of the magnetic treatment on juveniles’ flight direction, though whether this is due to the birds not using magnetoreception, other salient cues being available or a lack of motivation to orient to the migratory beeline is unclear.

We were, however, able to identify wind direction and topography as drivers of first flight direction in Manx shearwaters, which fledged with wind component between a crosswind and a tailwind and directed their maiden flight towards the sea and away from the land.

This novel assay will facilitate the study of the maiden flight of nocturnally fledging birds and will help advance the study of sensory guidance mechanisms underpinning migratory orientation in a wide range of taxa, including species which are traditionally challenging to study.

This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

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Magnetoreception – the ability to sense the Earth’s magnetic field

David Keays is one of the mega stars of animal navigation research and has spent a life time trying to work out how magnetism might work.

Here is a summary of his latest work:

Magnetoreception is the ability to sense the Earth’s magnetic field, which is used for orientation and navigation.

Behavioural experiments have shown that it is employed by many species across all vertebrate classes; however, our understanding of how magnetic information is processed and integrated within the central nervous system is limited.

In this Commentary, we review the progress in birds and rodents, highlighting the role of the vestibular and trigeminal systems as well as that of the hippocampus. We reflect on the strengths and weaknesses of the methodologies currently at our disposal, the utility of emerging technologies and identify questions that we feel are critical for the advancement of the field.

We expect that magnetic circuits are likely to share anatomical motifs with other senses, which culminates in the formation of spatial maps in telencephalic areas of the brain. Specifically, we predict the existence of spatial cells that encode defined components of the Earth’s magnetic field.

Malkemper, E. P., Nimpf, S., Nordmann, G. C. & Keays, D. A. 2020 Neuronal circuits and the magnetic sense: central questions. The Journal of Experimental Biology223, jeb232371. doi: 10.1242/jeb.232371. Malkemper3 2020 

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