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Challenge Questions

This page contains further questions on the subject of animal navigation and are designed to stimulate more in-depth conversation and learning. These questions support students to think and write at the level of synthesis and understanding required for Merit and Excellence discussions and above.


1. Using the information presented in these resources, explain how scientists believe animals detect magnetic fields and outline the evidence that suggests that this ability is used in navigation.   


2. Animal navigation involves both timing and orientation behaviours in response to environmental cues. Discuss the relationship between timing and orientation in homing and migration behaviours. 


3. For an environmental cue to be of use to an animal in navigation, the cue must be:

  • Consistent
  • Vary systematically in space to provide information about specific points on the Earth’s surface
  • Be stable over time 
  • Provide enough accuracy to allow the animal to reach its specific goal destination


Using named examples, discuss the adaptive advantage of the ability to use magnetic sense in comparison to other environmental cues.


4. Discuss biological concepts associated with the migration of the bar‐tailed godwit. You could consider:

  • The biological mechanisms involved in the preparation for and during migration 
  • The benefits and risks of migration to the birds 
  • How this behaviour may have evolved


NCEA level 2 biology external question:


5. Demonstrate understanding of the responses of plants and animals to their external environment.


Here is a link to a past NCEA (2017) external examination paper which requires you to describe, explain and discuss the concept of migration.