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J Comp Physiol A Neuroethol Sens Neural Behav Physiol. 2014 May;200(5):399-407. doi: 10.1007/s00359-014-0898-y. Epub 2014 Apr 10.

Orientation of migratory birds under ultraviolet light.

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Fachbereich Biowissenschaften der, J.W.Goethe-Universität Frankfurt, Max von Laue Straße 13, 60438, Frankfurt am Main, Germany,


In view of the finding that cryptochrome 1a, the putative receptor molecule for the avian magnetic compass, is restricted to the ultraviolet single cones in European Robins, we studied the orientation behaviour of robins and Australian Silvereyes under monochromatic ultraviolet (UV) light. At low intensity UV light of 0.3 mW/m(2), birds showed normal migratory orientation by their inclination compass, with the directional information originating in radical pair processes in the eye. At 2.8 mW/m(2), robins showed an axial preference in the east-west axis, whereas silvereyes preferred an easterly direction. At 5.7 mW/m(2), robins changed direction to a north-south axis. When UV light was combined with yellow light, robins showed easterly 'fixed direction' responses, which changed to disorientation when their upper beak was locally anaesthetised with xylocaine, indicating that they were controlled by the magnetite-based receptors in the beak. Orientation under UV light thus appears to be similar to that observed under blue, turquoise and green light, albeit the UV responses occur at lower light levels, probably because of the greater light sensitivity of the UV cones. The orientation under UV light and green light suggests that at least at the level of the retina, magnetoreception and vision are largely independent of each other.

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