NOVA Online (click here for NOVA home)
Island of the Spirits
Site Map

Find Your Way Salmon (132K)

Shockwave required

Find Your Way
by Rick Groleau

Imagine that it's in the middle of an exceptionally dark night. You're lying in bed, kept awake by a loud drip coming from the bathroom down the hall. Assuming that you don't want to turn on the lights because it might wake your housemates, which of your senses would you use to find your way to the bathroom? Well, hearing for one, since the sound of the drip will certainly guide you along. You'll also use your sense of touch, as you feel your way down the hallway. Your sense of vision will also come into play, perhaps letting you see a spot on the floor illuminated by a distant streetlight.

The point is, you would rely on more than one sense to find your way. It's exactly the same for animals that migrate. A bird, for example, may use smell to follow a familiar odor, touch to gauge its speed and the speed and direction of the wind, and vision to look for familiar landmarks and to locate the sun or certain stars.

Animals on the move may use other means to navigate, too—ways that humans will never get to experience. Some migrating birds use an internal compass that senses the Earth's magnetic field. Dolphins and other cetaceans use echolocation to navigate in nearby areas, and possibly in long-distance migrations, too. And the salmon uses a sense of smell that is far more acute than our own.

In the following activity, you'll take on the role of a salmon. Your goal will be to move from the open ocean to a specific location in a stream far inland, using only your sense of smell. Will you find your way using only one sense? Let's find out.

Find Your Way Salmon (132K)
Shockwave required

Origins of the Ainu | Ainu Legends | Find Your Way
Resources | Transcript | Site Map

Editor's Picks | Previous Sites | Join Us/E-mail | TV/Web Schedule
About NOVA | Teachers | Site Map | Shop | Jobs | Search | To print
PBS Online | NOVA Online | WGBH

© | Updated November 2000