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Migrating bats use Earth’s magnetic field to navigate in the dark

Nov 23, 2023

Soprano pipistrelles can sense the polarity and inclination of magnetic field lines, and use the position of the setting sun to calibrate their internal compass

By Richard Kemeny

29 May 2023

Soprano pipistrelles migrate long distances


Migratory bats use a magnetic sense to navigate long distances, calibrating their internal compass based on the position of the setting sun each evening.

Many animals may use Earth's magnetic field either to orient themselves or to navigate, including turtles, birds and possibly even humans. Until now, there has been no direct evidence that migratory mammals also use this sense, called magnetoreception.

Migratory bats travel hundreds or even thousands of kilometres each year. As nocturnal voyagers, they can't rely on visual cues, such as …