Light-Activated Magnetic Compass in Birds

  • Ilia A. Solov’yovEmail author
  • Walter Greiner
Part of the FIAS Interdisciplinary Science Series book series (FIAS)


Migrating birds fly thousand miles without having a map, or a GPS unit. But they may carry their own sensitive navigational tool, which allows them “see” the Earth’s magnetic field. Here we review the important physical and chemical constraints on a possible compass sensor and discuss the suggestion that radical pairs in a photoreceptor cryptochrome might provide a biological realization for a magnetic compass. Finally, we review the current evidence supporting a role for radical pair reactions in the magnetic compass of birds.


Radical Pair Flavin Adenine Dinucleotide Magnetic Field Effect Magnetic Compass Radical Pair Mechanism 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We thank Klaus Schulten (University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign) and Peter Hore (University of Oxford) for inspiring remarks. I.S. acknowledges support as a Beckman Fellow.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and TechnologyUrbana-ChampaignIllinoisUSA
  2. 2.Frankfurt Institute for Advanced StudiesGoethe-UniversitätFrankfurtGermany

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