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Guidance Cues and Orientation *

Time Required Average (6-10 days)
Prerequisites None
Material Availability This science project can be done with insects you catch in your own backyard or order from online vendors such as Carolina Biological Supply Company
Cost Very Low (under $20)
Safety If you choose to try this science project with small animals (rather than with insects), use caution when handling the animals and always have an adult present. The use of small animals may require SRC approval.
*Note: This is an abbreviated Project Idea, without notes to start your background research, a specific list of materials, or a procedure for how to do the experiment. You can identify abbreviated Project Ideas by the asterisk at the end of the title. If you want a Project Idea with full instructions, please pick one without an asterisk.


Many organisms have ways of orienting toward or away from an environmental stimulus. Some of these behaviors are instinctive, meaning they are behaviors with built in instructions that do not need to be learned. The instinctive response to a stimulus is called a taxis, and there are several types of cues: electricity (galvanotaxis), gravity (geotaxis), light (phototaxis), heat (thermotaxis), touch (thigmotaxis) or a chemical (chemotaxis). You can design experiments to test whether organisms exhibit a positive response (move towards the stimulus), a negative response (move away from the stimulus) or a neutral response (no response in either direction) to a type of stimulus. Thigmotaxis can be tested by poking or prodding with a toothpick, or lightly brushing with a paintbrush. Phototaxis can be tested by using a flashlight and a dark box. Geotaxis can be tested by putting animals like flies in a tube and rotating the tube to see if the flies re-orient themselves with gravity. Thermotaxis can be tested by using a cold ice-cube, a hot candle and something warm, like a heat pack made to put in your gloves when skiing. Chemotaxis can be tested by using drops of a chemotactic chemical, or you can use taxis as a behavioral assay for finding chemotactic chemicals. Galvanotaxis can be tested by soaking a newspaper in water and touching two ends of wire connected to a D-cell battery to either end of the newspaper. Put a worm or insect into the center of the electric field and see if it prefers a particular direction. Reverse the polarity of the field, does the animal re-orient towards the new pole? (VanCleave, 1993, 115-119; Dashefsky, 1995, 13-15; Vecchione, 2001, 170-171)

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Science Buddies Staff. "Guidance Cues and Orientation" Science Buddies. Science Buddies, 3 Oct. 2014. Web. 22 Oct. 2014 <http://www.sciencebuddies.org/science-fair-projects/project_ideas/Zoo_p043.shtml>

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Science Buddies Staff. (2014, October 3). Guidance Cues and Orientation. Retrieved October 22, 2014 from http://www.sciencebuddies.org/science-fair-projects/project_ideas/Zoo_p043.shtml

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Last edit date: 2014-10-03


  • Dashefsky, H.S. 1995. Zoology: 49 Science Fair Projects. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill, Inc.
  • VanCleave, J. 1993. Janice VanCleave's A+ Projects in Biology. New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
  • Vecchione, G. 2001. 100 Award-Winning Science Fair Projects. New York, NY: Sterling Publishing.

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I did this project I Did This Project! Please log in and let us know how things went.

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