There’s no place like home, is there?
A lot of animals would agree with that statement, if they could speak.
Many birds and animals have an uncanny “homing instinct” that allows them to travel thousands of miles to return to the very same location each year.
Monarch butterflies from eastern North America return to the same wintering grounds in central Mexico each year, even to the very same forest.
Sea-dwelling Pacific salmon return to the same river they were born in to spawn.
Pregnant sea turtles migrate thousands of miles across the ocean to lay their eggs on the same beach on which they were born decades earlier.
And then there are homing pigeons, the champions of long-distance way-finding. Their homing instincts are so reliable that they’ve been used in wartime to deliver crucial messages over enemy lines.
But how do they do it?
One theory suggests that homing pigeons may have a mineral called magnetite in their beaks, which acts as a tiny GPS unit. This would allow them to sense the earth’s magnetic fields and their own position in relation to it. If true, it would mean that these birds are essentially flying compasses, with their beaks pointing them in the direction they should go.
It makes me wonder: do humans have a “homing instinct”?Read more