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    Re: Celestial navigation in animals?
    From: Frank Reed
    Date: 2016 Dec 19, 17:43 -0800

    Bill Lionheart, you wrote:
    "I was wondering how accurate animal's body clocks could and if any actually have a good sense of longitude."

    Heh. That's an interesting thought! Animals with natural chronometers?! I would have to say that this may be beyond the pale of reasonable possibility. There's nothing even remotely approaching an accurate clock in the biological world without environmental cues. Are there any examples of organisms with diurnal rhythms as accurate as even 5% when lighting and other environmental cues are suppressed? Also, and equally critical, how would such a thing ever evolve? Evolution is generally believed to develop new senses and capabilities by co-opting changes that have developed for some other purpose. For example, feathers evolve for thermal control in dinosaurs and are then co-opted for flight in birds. But what could ever lead to a biological chronometer? What biological use is "half a chronometer" to twist a phrase...

    You wondered:
    "also any other evidence of more detailed knowledge of the night sky in animals. It struck me some whales travel a long way and not just North-South, and they have huge brains (so could remember a lot), wonder if they pop up to look at the sky for navigation? Maybe they cant see so well in air."

    Hmm. Another interesting thought there. Could whales perhaps see the Southern Cross and use it for latitude? Maybe, just maybe... but it's an extraordinary claim and would require some extraordinary evidence. Instead of navigating by looking up, it's also worth considering that many whales could simply follow the trash on the ocean floor and navigate by looking down. They dive deep. A whale would make his way from one seafloor wreck to another navigating across the Pacific. You can imagine them passing along the route info... "when you see the Lockheed Electra with the female human bones in it, turn left".

    Frank Reed

       
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