Marsh frogs, Pelophylax ridibundus, determine migratory direction by magnetic field

Abstract

Orientation by magnetic cues appears to be adaptive during animal migrations. Whereas the magnetic orientation in birds, mammals, and urodele amphibians is being investigated intensively, the data about anurans are still scarce. This study tests whether marsh frogs could determine migratory direction between the breeding pond and the wintering site by magnetic cues in the laboratory. Adult frogs (N = 32) were individually tested in the T-maze 127 cm long inside the three-axis Helmholtz coil system (diameter 3 m). The arms of the maze were positioned parallel to the natural migratory route of this population when measured in accordance with magnetic field. The frogs were tested under two-motivational conditions mediated by temperature/light regime: the breeding migratory state and the wintering state. The frogs’ choice in a T-maze was evident only when analyzed in accordance with the direction of the magnetic field: they moved along the migratory route to the breeding pond and followed the reversion of the horizontal component of the magnetic field. This preference has been detected in both sexes only in the breeding migratory state. This suggests that adult ranid frogs can obtain directional information from the Earth’s magnetic field as was shown earlier in urodeles and anuran larvae.

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Acknowledgements

We would like to thank A.V. Spassky and V.M. Lebedev (Skobeltsyn Institute of Nuclear Physics of MSU) for the technical assistance while working with Helmholtz coil system. We are also thankful to A.P. Golovlev, A.S. Dubrovskaya, and E.E. Gritsyshina for their help during the experiments. Magnetometer GI MTS-1 was kindly provided by N.S. Chernetsov from Zoological Institute RAS. The work of V.V. Shakhparonov was financed by Grant mol_a 14-04-32243 from the Russian Foundation for Basic Research. Bartington Mag658 Digital Three-Axis Fluxgate Magnetometer was obtained with the support of the Russian Science Foundation, Grant No. 14-50-00029 “Scientific Basis of the National Biobank—Depository of the Living Systems”. The Helmholtz coil system was kindly provided in accordance with the Program of Development of Lomonosov Moscow State University. We are grateful to two anonymous reviewers for very useful comments that greatly improved the presentation of the material and to Maria Wilding for her kind assistance in the editing of the English language of the manuscript. All applicable international, national, and institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed, including “Guidelines for accommodation and care of animals” of the “European Convention for the Protection of Vertebrate Animals used for Experimental and other Scientific Purposes” (ETS No. 123) and “Guidelines for the treatment of animals in behavioral research and teaching” produced by the Association for the Study of Animal Behavior and the Animal Behavior Society (Animal Behavior (2012) 83:301–309). This study was conducted in agreement with the legislation of the Russian Federation and with the requirements of the Committee for Bio Ethics of Lomonosov Moscow State University.

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Correspondence to Vladimir V. Shakhparonov.

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Shakhparonov, V.V., Ogurtsov, S.V. Marsh frogs, Pelophylax ridibundus, determine migratory direction by magnetic field. J Comp Physiol A 203, 35–43 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00359-016-1132-x

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Keywords

  • Anuran amphibians
  • Magnetic compass
  • Migration
  • Orientation
  • Motivation