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Light-dependent magnetoreception in birds: interaction of at least two different receptors

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Abstract

Passerine migrants require light from the blue-green part of the spectrum for magnetic compass orientation; under yellow light, they are disoriented. European robins tested under a combination of yellow light and blue or green light showed a change in behavior, no longer preferring their seasonally appropriate migratory direction: in spring as well as in autumn, they preferred southerly headings under blue-and-yellow and northerly headings under green-and-yellow light. This clearly shows that yellow light is not neutral and suggests the involvement of at least two types of receptors in obtaining magnetic compass information, with the specific interaction of these receptors being rather complex.

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Acknowledgements

This study was supported by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft. We sincerely thank U. Imhoff, D. Steincke, and S. Wirthmann for their valuable help in conducting the experiments, and P. Galland, Universität Marburg, for stimulating discussions and helpful suggestions. The experiments were performed according to the laws and regulations on animal welfare in Germany.

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Correspondence to Wolfgang Wiltschko.

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Wiltschko, W., Gesson, M., Stapput, K. et al. Light-dependent magnetoreception in birds: interaction of at least two different receptors. Naturwissenschaften 91, 130–134 (2004). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00114-003-0500-x

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00114-003-0500-x

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