Naturwissenschaften

, 97:37

Magnetoreception in birds: no intensity window in “fixed direction” responses

  • Wolfgang Wiltschko
  • Lars Dehe
  • Katrin Stapput
  • Peter Thalau
  • Roswitha Wiltschko
ORIGINAL PAPER

DOI: 10.1007/s00114-009-0608-8

Cite this article as:
Wiltschko, W., Dehe, L., Stapput, K. et al. Naturwissenschaften (2010) 97: 37. doi:10.1007/s00114-009-0608-8

Abstract

Under 502 nm turquoise light combined with 590 nm yellow light and in total darkness, European robins, Erithacus rubecula, no longer prefer their migratory direction, but exhibit so-called fixed direction responses that do not show the seasonal change between spring and autumn. We tested robins under these light conditions in the local geomagnetic field of 46 μT, a field of twice this intensity, 92 μT, and a field of three times this intensity, 138 μT. Under all three magnetic conditions, the birds preferred the same easterly direction under turquoise-and-yellow light and the same northwesterly direction under dark, while they were oriented in their seasonally appropriate direction under control conditions. “Fixed direction” responses are thus not limited to a narrow intensity window as has been found for normal compass orientation. This can be attributed to their origin in the magnetite-based receptor in the upper beak, which operates according to fundamentally different principles than the radical pair mechanism in the retina mediating compass orientation. “Fixed direction” responses are possibly a relict of a receptor mechanism that changed its function, now mainly providing information on magnetic intensity.

Keywords

Magnetic compass “Fixed direction” response Functional window Magnetite-based receptors Migratory orientation 

Supplementary material

114_2009_608_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (135 kb)
Supplementary Tables(PDF 134 kb)

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Wolfgang Wiltschko
    • 1
  • Lars Dehe
    • 1
  • Katrin Stapput
    • 1
  • Peter Thalau
    • 1
  • Roswitha Wiltschko
    • 1
  1. 1.FB BiowissenschaftenJ.W. Goethe-Universität FrankfurtFrankfurt am MainGermany

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