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Nature. 2004 May 13;429(6988):177-80.

Resonance effects indicate a radical-pair mechanism for avian magnetic compass.

Author information

1
Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of California, Irvine, California 92697-4575, USA. tritz@uci.edu

Abstract

Migratory birds are known to use the geomagnetic field as a source of compass information. There are two competing hypotheses for the primary process underlying the avian magnetic compass, one involving magnetite, the other a magnetically sensitive chemical reaction. Here we show that oscillating magnetic fields disrupt the magnetic orientation behaviour of migratory birds. Robins were disoriented when exposed to a vertically aligned broadband (0.1-10 MHz) or a single-frequency (7-MHz) field in addition to the geomagnetic field. Moreover, in the 7-MHz oscillating field, this effect depended on the angle between the oscillating and the geomagnetic fields. The birds exhibited seasonally appropriate migratory orientation when the oscillating field was parallel to the geomagnetic field, but were disoriented when it was presented at a 24 degrees or 48 degrees angle. These results are consistent with a resonance effect on singlet-triplet transitions and suggest a magnetic compass based on a radical-pair mechanism.

PMID:
15141211
DOI:
10.1038/nature02534
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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