Poster presentation 12th International Mammalogical Congress

No magnetic alignment of form direction in European hares (Lepus europaeus) (#736)

Gert Niederkofler 1 , Klaus Hackländer 1
  1. BOKU - University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna, Vienna, Austria

Mammals show a directional response to the geomagnetic field. This magnetic alignment represents a spontaneous, fixed directional response in which mammals align their bodies along or perpendicular to the magnetic field lines. We tested the potential effect of the geomagnetic field on the position of forms used by European hares (Lepus europaeus) in an arable landscape in Lower Austria. For 400 forms we determined their direction to the nearest 5° and classified them into the categories N, NE, E, SE, S, SW, W, NW. The statistical analysis revealed no significantly preferred direction but a rather uniform alignment (Rayleigh test p = 0.4798, Chi-square p = 0.05877). There is no evidence for dependence of form direction on vegetation height, ground cover or main wind direction in our study site. Effects of agricultural land orientation on form alignment could only be explored in cropland with cereal grain only. We suggest hares adjust form alignment on small-scale structures like machine tracks or plow furrow and on prevalent environmental conditions. To sum up, magnetic alignment in European hares seems to be negligible under natural conditions and largely suppressed by numerous other orientation determining factors.