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Curr Opin Neurobiol. 2005 Aug;15(4):406-14.

Magnetoreception and its use in bird navigation.

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  • 1Volkswagen Nachwuchsgruppe Animal Navigation, Institute of Biology, University of Oldenburg, D-26111 Oldenburg, Germany.


Recent advances have brought new insight into the physiological mechanisms that enable birds and other animals to use magnetic fields for orientation. Many birds seem to have two magnetodetection senses, one based on magnetite near the beak and one based on light-dependent radical-pair processes in the bird's eye(s). Among the most exciting recent results are: first, behavioural responses of birds experiencing oscillating magnetic fields. Second, the occurrence of putative magnetosensory molecules, the cryptochromes, in the eyes of migratory birds. Third, detection of a brain area that integrates specialised visual input at night in night-migratory songbirds. Fourth, a putative magnetosensory cluster of magnetite in the upper beak. These and other recent findings have important implications for magnetoreception; however, many crucial open questions remain.

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