Wavelength-dependent effects of light on magnetic compass orientation in Drosophila melanogaster
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Wildtype Oregon-R Drosophila melanogaster were trained in the ambient magnetic field to a horizontal gradient of 365 nm light emanating from one of the 4 cardinal compass directions and were subsequently tested in a visually-symmetrical, radial 8-arm maze in which the magnetic field alignment could be varied. When tested under 365 nm light, flies exhibited consistent magnetic compass orientation in the direction from which light had emanated in training.
When the data were analyzed by sex, males exhibited a strong and consistent magnetic compass response while females were randomly oriented with respect to the magnetic field.
When tested under 500 nm light of the same quantal flux, females were again randomly oriented with respect to the magnetic field, while males exhibited a 90° clockwise shift in magnetic compass orientation relative to the trained direction.
This wavelength-dependent shift in the direction of magnetic compass orientation suggests that Drosophila may utilize a light-dependent magnetic compass similar to that demonstrated previously in an amphibian. However, the data do not exclude the alternative hypothesis that a change in the wavelength of light has a non-specific effect on the flies' behavior, i.e., causing the flies to exhibit a different form of magnetic orientation behavior.
Key wordsDrosophila Photoreception Magnetoreception Magnetic compass orientation Geomagnetic field
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