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Sci Rep. 2016 Mar 23;6:23657. doi: 10.1038/srep23657.

Magnetic Sensing through the Abdomen of the Honey bee.

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Department of Entomology, National Taiwan University, No. 1, Sec. 4, Roosevelt Rd., Taipei 10617, Taiwan.
Department of Bio-Industrial Mechatronics Engineering, National Taiwan University, No. 1, Sec. 4, Roosevelt Rd., Taipei 10617, Taiwan.
Graduate Institute of Brain and Mind Sciences, National Taiwan University, No. 1, Sec. 1, Ren'ai Rd., Taipei 10051, Taiwan.


Honey bees have the ability to detect the Earth's magnetic field, and the suspected magnetoreceptors are the iron granules in the abdomens of the bees. To identify the sensing route of honey bee magnetoreception, we conducted a classical conditioning experiment in which the responses of the proboscis extension reflex (PER) were monitored. Honey bees were successfully trained to associate the magnetic stimulus with a sucrose reward after two days of training. When the neural connection of the ventral nerve cord (VNC) between the abdomen and the thorax was cut, the honey bees no longer associated the magnetic stimulus with the sucrose reward but still responded to an olfactory PER task. The neural responses elicited in response to the change of magnetic field were also recorded at the VNC. Our results suggest that the honey bee is a new model animal for the investigation of magnetite-based magnetoreception.

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