Simulating geomagnetic bird navigation using novel high-resolution geomagnetic data
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Birds rely on precise navigational mechanisms, especially for long-distance migrations. One debated mechanism is their use of the geomagnetic field. It is unclear if and how different species of birds are using intensity or inclination (or both) for navigation. Previous geomagnetic modelling research is based on static geomagnetic data despite a temporally and spatially varying geomagnetic field. Animals supposedly have a high sensitivity to those changes of the geomagnetic field. In order to understand how birds respond in real-time to its temporal variation, we need to use accurate geomagnetic information linked to the position of the bird through co-location in space and time. We developed a data-driven approach to simulate geomagnetic migratory strategies, using, for the first time, accurate contemporaneous geomagnetic data obtained from Swarm satellites of the European Space Agency. We created biased correlated random walk models which were based on both GPS data from greater white-fronted geese (Anser albifrons) during fall migration between north-west Russia and central Europe and contemporaneous satellite geomagnetic data. Different strategies of geomagnetic navigation associated with different geomagnetic values were translated into probability surfaces, built from geomagnetic data, and included into the random walk models. To evaluate which strategy was most likely, we compared the measured GPS trajectories to the simulated trajectories using different trajectory similarity measurements. We propose this as an approach to track many bird species for future comparative studies. We found that navigational strategies in these geese using magnetic intensity were closer to the observed data than those using inclination. This was the case in 80% of the best models and is an indication that it should be more beneficial for these geese to use intensity over inclination. Additionally, our results supported results from a previous study, that navigation based on taxis and compass mechanisms were more similar to the observed data than other mechanisms. We therefore suggest that these geese may use a combination of these strategies for navigation at a broad-scale. Overall, it seems likely that for successful navigation to the target location more than one mechanism is necessary; indicating a multifactorial navigation mechanism of these migratory geese in the study area. The satellite geomagnetic data are available at a higher temporal resolution and the use significantly improved the fit of the modelled simulations in comparison to the modelled geomagnetic data. Therefore, using annotated geomagnetic data could greatly improve the modelling of animal geomagnetic navigation in future research.
Zein , B , Long , J A , Safi , K , Kölzsch , A , Benitez-Paez , F , Wikelski , M , Kruckenberg , H & Demšar , U 2022 , ' Simulating geomagnetic bird navigation using novel high-resolution geomagnetic data ' , Ecological Informatics , vol. 69 , 101689 . https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecoinf.2022.101689
DescriptionFunding: The project was funded by the Leverhulme Trust [Research Project Grant RPG-2018-258].
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