Following the sun: a mathematical analysis of the tracks of clock-shifted homing pigeons

Schiffner, Ingo, Siegmund, Bettina and Wiltschko, Roswitha (2014) Following the sun: a mathematical analysis of the tracks of clock-shifted homing pigeons. Journal of Experimental Biology, 217 15: 2643-2649. doi:10.1242/jeb.104182

Author Schiffner, Ingo
Siegmund, Bettina
Wiltschko, Roswitha
Title Following the sun: a mathematical analysis of the tracks of clock-shifted homing pigeons
Journal name Journal of Experimental Biology   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 0022-0949
Publication date 2014-08
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1242/jeb.104182
Open Access Status DOI
Volume 217
Issue 15
Start page 2643
End page 2649
Total pages 7
Place of publication Cambridge, United Kingdom
Publisher The Company of Biologists
Collection year 2015
Language eng
Abstract We analysed the tracks of clock-shifted pigeons from six releases to determine how they cope with the conflict between their sun compass and other navigational cues. Time-lag embedding was used to calculate the short-term correlation dimension, a parameter that reflects the complexity of the navigational system, and with it, the number of factors involved. Initially, while pigeons were still at the release site, the short-term correlation dimension was low; it increased as the birds left the site, indicating that the birds were now actively navigating. Clock-shifted pigeons showed more scatter than the control birds, and their short-term correlation dimension became significantly smaller than that of the controls, remaining lower until the experimental birds reached their loft. This difference was small, but consistent, and suggests a different rating and ranking of the navigational cues. Clock-shifted pigeons do not seem to simply ignore the information from their manipulated sun compass altogether, but appear to merely downgrade it in favour of other cues, like their magnetic compass. This is supported by the observation that the final part of the tracks still showed a small deviation in the expected direction, indicating an effect of clock-shifting until the end of the homing flight.
Keyword Navigation
Sun compass
Clock shift
Points of decision
Correlation dimension
Columba livia
Strange Attractors
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Confirmed Code
Institutional Status UQ

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Article (original research)
Collections: Queensland Brain Institute Publications
Official 2015 Collection
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Citation counts: TR Web of Science Citation Count  Cited 3 times in Thomson Reuters Web of Science Article | Citations
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