The olfactory senses of seabirds may help them navigate over the ocean via detection of dimethyl sulfide produced by phytoplankton.
"It is well established that emissions produce local elevations in atmospheric DMS [Dimethyl sulfide] (Dacey et al. 1984; Zemmelink et al. 2002), which are detectable within a few metres of the ocean surface where procellariiforms fly. An ability to identify or discriminate such features by scent could conceivably provide seabirds with spatial or positional information to assist orientation over a seemingly featureless ocean (Wallraff & Andreae 2000). This idea is attractive since it has recently been shown that several species of albatrosses (blackbrowed (Diomedea melanophris), waved (D. irrorata), wandering (D. exulans)) and white-chinned petrels (Procellaria aequinoctialis) do not require magnetic cues for orientation or navigation (Benhamou et al. 2003; Bonadonna et al. 2003, 2005; Mouritsen et al. 2003), suggesting that procellariiform seabirds must also utilise other senses (Nevitt 2000)." (Nevitt and Bonadonna 2005:305)
Learn more about this functional adaptation.
- Nevitt, G.A.; Bonadonna, F. 2005. Sensitivity to dimethyl sulphide suggests a mechanism for olfactory navigation by seabirds. Biology Letters. 1: 303-305.
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