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Odors as navigational cues for pigeons

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Many bird species can find their way home even after being brought to remote or unfamiliar locations. Over 40 years of research on homing pigeons have shown that environmental odors play a crucial role in this process. Yet the chemical identity of these odors has remained a mystery. An international team of scientists from the Max Planck Institutes for Chemistry (Mainz) and of Animal Behavior (Radolfzell), and the Universities of Konstanz, Pisa and Mainz has now identified potential chemical navigational cues that could be used by homing pigeons. Based on the collected data, the researchers were also able to create regional olfactory maps for marine emissions, biogenic compounds, and anthropogenic mixed air and to establish the existence of regional navigable chemical gradients in the air.

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