Bangor University researchers solving the mystery of migrating mammals

Soprano pipistrelle bat. Credit: Christian Giese

How do mammals navigate when they migrate? That's the question researchers at Bangor University are trying to solve.

We know more about how birds and reptiles and fish navigate than we do about mammals like whales or wildebeest, but one part of the puzzle is being revealed.

The researchers caught tiny soprano pipistrelle bats, weighing just 6g, flyingfrom the Baltic coast. They discovered the bats used the setting sun to get their sense of direction.

The setting sun on the Baltic coast. Credit: Christian Giese

When they used a mirror to reflect the sun the bats flew in the opposite direction. Those bats whose internal compass had been changed, had their natural navigation system re-set at the next dusk, to continue their journey.

The results are reported in Current Biology.