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Homing (biology)

homing pigeons, homing biology dictionary
Homing is the inherent ability of an animal to navigate towards an original location through unfamiliar areas This location may be either a home territory, or a breeding spot


  • 1 Uses
  • 2 True navigation
  • 3 Magnetic orientation
  • 4 Celestial orientation
  • 5 Olfaction
  • 6 Topographic memory
  • 7 See also
  • 8 References


Homing abilities can be used to find the way back to home in a migration It is often used in reference to going back to a breeding spot seen years before, as in the case of salmon Homing abilities can also be used to go back to familiar territory when displaced over long distances, such as with the red-bellied newt

True navigation

Loggerhead sea turtles home both using true navigation and magnetic orientationFurther information:Animal navigation

Some animals use true navigation for their homing This means in familiar areas they will use landmarks such as roads, rivers or mountains when flying, or islands and other landmarks while swimming However, this only works in familiar territory Homing pigeons, for example, will often navigate using familiar landmarks, such as roads Sea turtles will also use landmarks to orient themselves

Magnetic orientation

Many animals use magnetic orientation based on the Earth's magnetic field to find their way home This is usually used together with other methods, such as a sun compass, as in bird migration and in the case of turtles This is also commonly used when no other methods are available, as in the case of lobsters, which live underwater, and mole rats, which home through their underground burrows

Celestial orientation

Celestial orientation, navigation using the stars, is commonly used for homing Displaced marbled newts, for example, can only home when stars are visible


There is evidence that olfaction, or smell, is used in homing with several salamanders, such as the red-bellied newt Olfaction is also necessary for the homing of salmon

Topographic memory

Topographic memory, memory of the contours surrounding the destination, is one common method for navigation This is mainly used by animals with less intelligence, such as molluscs Limpets use this to find their way back to the home scrape; although whether this is true homing has been disputed

See also

  • Natal homing
  • Philopatry
  • Homing endonuclease gene


  1. ^ BBC News:Pigeons reveal map-reading secret
  2. ^ Avens, L, 2003 "Homing Behavior, Navigation, and Orientation of Juvenile Sea Turtles"
  3. ^ Lohmann, K, Pentcheff, N, Nevitt, G, Stetten, G, Zimmer-Faust, R, Jarrard H, and Boles, L, 1995 Magnetic orientation of spiny lobsters in the ocean:experiments with undersea coil systems The Journal of Experimental Biology 19810; pg 2041–2048
  4. ^ Kimchi, T, and Terkel, J, 2001 Magnetic compass orientation in the blind mole rat Spalax ehrenbergi The Journal of Experimental Biology 2044; pg 751–758
  5. ^ Diego-Rasilla, J, and Luengo, R, 2002 Journal of Ethology 201:137–141
  6. ^ Grant, D, Anderson, O, and Twitty, V 1968 "Homing Orientation by Olfaction in Newts Taricha rivularis" Science 1603834:1354–1356
  7. ^ Stabell, O 2008 "Homing and olfaction in Salmonids:a critical review with special reference to the Atlantic Salmon" Biological Reviews 593:333–388
  8. ^ Villee, C, and Groody, T, 1940 American Midland Naturalist; 241:190–204

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