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How animals follow the stars

  • James J. Foster
  • Jochen Smolka
  • Dan Eric Nilsson
  • Marie Dacke
Publishing year: 2018-01-31
Language: English
Publication/Series: Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Volume: 285
Issue: 1871
Document type: Journal article review
Publisher: Royal Society

Abstract english

Throughout history, the stars have provided humans with ever more information about our world, enabling increasingly accurate systems of navigation in addition to fuelling some of the greatest scientific controversies. What information animals have evolved to extract from a starry sky and how they do so, is a topic of study that combines the practical and theoretical challenges faced by both astronomers and field biologists. While a number of animal species have been demonstrated to use the stars as a source of directional information, the strategies that these animals use to convert this complex and variable pattern of dim-light points into a reliable ‘stellar orientation’ cue have been more difficult to ascertain. In this review, we assess the stars as a visual stimulus that conveys directional information, and compare the bodies of evidence available for the different stellar orientation strategies proposed to date. In this context, we also introduce new technologies that may aid in the study of stellar orientation, and suggest how field experiments may be used to characterize the mechanisms underlying stellar orientation.


  • Zoology
  • Migration
  • Navigation
  • Orientation
  • Stars
  • Vision


  • Lund Vision Group
  • ISSN: 0962-8452
Marie Dacke
E-mail: marie [dot] dacke [at] biol [dot] lu [dot] se


Functional zoology

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