Giuseppe Bianco, Robin Clemens Köhler, Mihaela Ilieva, and Susanne Akesson
Several invertebrate and vertebrate species have been shown to align their body relative to the geomagnetic field. Many hypotheses have been proposed to explain the adaptive significance of magnetic body alignment outside the context of navigation. However, experimental evidence to investigate alternative hypotheses is still limited. We present a new setup to track the preferential body alignment relative to the geomagnetic field in captive animals using computer vision. We tested our method on three species of migratory songbirds and provide evidence that they align their body with the geomagnetic field. We suggest that this behaviour may be involved in the underlying mechanism for compass orientation and calibration, which may occur near to sunrise and sunset periods. Our method could be easily extended to other species and used to test a large set of hypotheses to explain the mechanisms behind the magnetic body alignment and the magnetic sense in general.