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PRI's Environmental News Magazine

Animal Update

Air Date: Week of April 27, 2001

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VILLIGER: Blind mole rats are furry little rodents that spend their entire lives in elaborate subterranean dwellings. How they navigate these complicated tunnel systems has long been a mystery. They have no eyes so they can't see, and their hearing isn't great, either. Now, researchers say mole rats rely on the Earth's magnetic field to orient themselves. Scientists set the mole rats up in a lab where the direction and strength of the magnetic field around them could be altered. The rodents consistently built their sleeping nest and stored their food in whichever location corresponded to magnetic south. The blind mole rats also use magnetic field cues while learning how to run a maze. When researchers flipped magnetic north and south, the confused mole rats lost their bearings. Now scientists are trying to figure out the location of their magnetic sensors and how they work. That's this week's animal update. I'm Maggie Villiger.

CURWOOD: And you're listening to Living on Earth.

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