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The Electric Sun Hypothesis The Basics

N2 - The ability of animals to learn to use the sun for orientation has been explored in numerous species. In birds, there is conflicting evidence about the experience needed for sun compass orientation to develop. The prevailing hypothesis is that birds need entire daytime exposure to the arc of the sun to use the sun as an orientation cue. However, there is also some evidence indicating that, even with limited exposure to the arc of the sun, birds, like insects, can use the sun to orient at any time of day. We re-examine this issue in a study of compass orientation in a cue-controlled arena. Two groups of young homing pigeons received different exposure to the sun. The control group experienced the sun throughout the day; the experimental group experienced only the apparent descent of the sun. After 8 weeks of sun exposure, we trained both groups in the afternoon to find food in a specific compass direction in an outdoor arena that provided a view of the sun but not landmarks. We then tested the pigeons in the morning for their ability to use the morning sun as an orientation cue. The control group and the experimental group, which was exposed to the morning sun for the first time, succeeded in orienting in the training direction during test 1. The orientation of the experimental group was no different from that of the control group, although the experimental first trial directional response latencies were greater than the control latencies. Subsequently, we continued training both groups in the afternoon and then tested the pigeons during the morning under complete cloud cover. Both groups displayed random directional responses under cloud cover, indicating that the observed orientation was based on the visibility of the sun. The data indicate that pigeons with limited exposure to the arc of the sun can, like insects, use the sun for orientation at any time of day.

08/12/2017 · Feb 21-25: Navigation--maps versus sun arc

(The frosted contacts control for the sun-arc hypothesis) and b.) Putting a battery on the back and a magnetic coil on the head to “reorient” their sense of magnetic fields -- and they also head in the wrong direction!

On the "Electric Sun" Hypothesis - Tim Thompson

The ability of animals to learn to use the sun for orientation has been explored in numerous species. In birds, there is conflicting evidence about the experience needed for sun compass orientation to develop. The prevailing hypothesis is that birds need entire daytime exposure to the arc of the sun to use the sun as an orientation cue. However, there is also some evidence indicating that, even with limited exposure to the arc of the sun, birds, like insects, can use the sun to orient at any time of day. We re-examine this issue in a study of compass orientation in a cue-controlled arena. Two groups of young homing pigeons received different exposure to the sun. The control group experienced the sun throughout the day; the experimental group experienced only the apparent descent of the sun. After 8 weeks of sun exposure, we trained both groups in the afternoon to find food in a specific compass direction in an outdoor arena that provided a view of the sun but not landmarks. We then tested the pigeons in the morning for their ability to use the morning sun as an orientation cue. The control group and the experimental group, which was exposed to the morning sun for the first time, succeeded in orienting in the training direction during test 1. The orientation of the experimental group was no different from that of the control group, although the experimental first trial directional response latencies were greater than the control latencies. Subsequently, we continued training both groups in the afternoon and then tested the pigeons during the morning under complete cloud cover. Both groups displayed random directional responses under cloud cover, indicating that the observed orientation was based on the visibility of the sun. The data indicate that pigeons with limited exposure to the arc of the sun can, like insects, use the sun for orientation at any time of day.

AB - The ability of animals to learn to use the sun for orientation has been explored in numerous species. In birds, there is conflicting evidence about the experience needed for sun compass orientation to develop. The prevailing hypothesis is that birds need entire daytime exposure to the arc of the sun to use the sun as an orientation cue. However, there is also some evidence indicating that, even with limited exposure to the arc of the sun, birds, like insects, can use the sun to orient at any time of day. We re-examine this issue in a study of compass orientation in a cue-controlled arena. Two groups of young homing pigeons received different exposure to the sun. The control group experienced the sun throughout the day; the experimental group experienced only the apparent descent of the sun. After 8 weeks of sun exposure, we trained both groups in the afternoon to find food in a specific compass direction in an outdoor arena that provided a view of the sun but not landmarks. We then tested the pigeons in the morning for their ability to use the morning sun as an orientation cue. The control group and the experimental group, which was exposed to the morning sun for the first time, succeeded in orienting in the training direction during test 1. The orientation of the experimental group was no different from that of the control group, although the experimental first trial directional response latencies were greater than the control latencies. Subsequently, we continued training both groups in the afternoon and then tested the pigeons during the morning under complete cloud cover. Both groups displayed random directional responses under cloud cover, indicating that the observed orientation was based on the visibility of the sun. The data indicate that pigeons with limited exposure to the arc of the sun can, like insects, use the sun for orientation at any time of day.

On the "Electric Sun" Hypothesis

Experiments conducted over the past fifty years elucidate the importance of the sun as navigational cue in pigeon homing. Kramer (1950) showed that the sun was used by pigeons in experiment which manipulated the sun during a spatial learning task. He trained pigeons to located food in a particular direction using the sun as a directional cue. When he deflected the image of the sun with mirrors, the orientation of the birds was correspondingly shifted. Hoffmann then found that the sun is used in conjunction with the pigeon's own internal clock. He shifted the circadian rhythm of birds by exposing them to artificial light, a procedure known as clock-shifting. He found that the orientation of the birds shifted approximately fifteen degrees for every hour that the bird's clock had been shifted. This deviation corresponds to the difference between the actual angular position of the sun and the position predicted by the birds own internal clock. Based on this finding, Matthews (1953) proposed the sun-arc hypothesis of navigation which conflicted with Kramer's map and compass hypothesis. Matthews theorized that pigeons could determine both directional and position information using only information provided by the sun. The latitudinal position could be determined by extrapolating the arc of the sun to determine its highest position and comparing the altitude of this position with the remembered altitude of the noon sun at home. If the altitude of the sun is higher at the release site, then the pigeon is located south of the home loft and if the sun appears lower, the site is north of the home loft. Additionally, the longitudinal displacement of the pigeon could be determined by comparing the sun's position at the release site with the position predicted by the bird's internal clock. If the sun appears too low in the sky according to its clock, the bird would know that home is located towards the east. Because Matthews' sun arc theory had the potential to explain much of the homing behavior of pigeons, it was tested using the clock shift paradigm described above (Keeton 1969). The results of these experiments indicated that Matthews' hypothesis was wrong and that the clock-shifted pigeons appeared to be using the sun as a directional and not a bicoordinate cue. The figure below illustrates the predictions of the sun-arc and map-compass hypotheses. Results using clock shifted pigeons show that the pigeons know which direction to fly home, but clock-shifting prevents them from accurately discerning this direction. Clearly, pigeons use the sun to obtain directional/compass information rather than to determine their specific location.

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