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Migratory birds use head scans to detect the direction of the Earth’s magnetic field

Mouritsen, H.; Feenders, G.; Liedvogel, Miriam LU and Kropp, W. (2004) In Current Biology 14(21). p.1946-1949
Abstract
Night-migratory songbirds are known to use a magnetic compass [[13]], but how do they detect the reference direction provided by the geomagnetic field, and where is the sensory organ located? The most prominent characteristic of geomagnetic sensory input, whether based on visual patterns [[47]] or magnetite-mediated forces [[8, 9]], is the predicted symmetry around the north-south or east-west magnetic axis. Here, we show that caged migratory garden warblers perform head-scanning behavior well suited to detect this magnetic symmetry plane. In the natural geomagnetic field, birds move toward their migratory direction after head scanning. In a zero-magnetic field [[10]], where no symmetry plane exists, the birds almost triple their... (More)
Night-migratory songbirds are known to use a magnetic compass [[13]], but how do they detect the reference direction provided by the geomagnetic field, and where is the sensory organ located? The most prominent characteristic of geomagnetic sensory input, whether based on visual patterns [[47]] or magnetite-mediated forces [[8, 9]], is the predicted symmetry around the north-south or east-west magnetic axis. Here, we show that caged migratory garden warblers perform head-scanning behavior well suited to detect this magnetic symmetry plane. In the natural geomagnetic field, birds move toward their migratory direction after head scanning. In a zero-magnetic field [[10]], where no symmetry plane exists, the birds almost triple their head-scanning frequency, and the movement direction after a head scan becomes random. Thus, the magnetic sensory organ is located in the bird's head, and head scans are used to locate the reference direction provided by the geomagnetic field. (Less)
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author
publishing date
type
Contribution to journal
publication status
published
subject
in
Current Biology
volume
14
issue
21
pages
1946 - 1949
publisher
Elsevier
external identifiers
  • scopus:7944234302
ISSN
1879-0445
DOI
10.1016/j.cub.2004.10.025
language
English
LU publication?
no
id
5c979c7e-11dc-40d6-a957-4f01e135f1df (old id 1976943)
date added to LUP
2011-06-15 13:46:33
date last changed
2017-08-13 03:33:41
@article{5c979c7e-11dc-40d6-a957-4f01e135f1df,
  abstract     = {Night-migratory songbirds are known to use a magnetic compass [[13]], but how do they detect the reference direction provided by the geomagnetic field, and where is the sensory organ located? The most prominent characteristic of geomagnetic sensory input, whether based on visual patterns [[47]] or magnetite-mediated forces [[8, 9]], is the predicted symmetry around the north-south or east-west magnetic axis. Here, we show that caged migratory garden warblers perform head-scanning behavior well suited to detect this magnetic symmetry plane. In the natural geomagnetic field, birds move toward their migratory direction after head scanning. In a zero-magnetic field [[10]], where no symmetry plane exists, the birds almost triple their head-scanning frequency, and the movement direction after a head scan becomes random. Thus, the magnetic sensory organ is located in the bird's head, and head scans are used to locate the reference direction provided by the geomagnetic field.},
  author       = {Mouritsen, H. and Feenders, G. and Liedvogel, Miriam and Kropp, W.},
  issn         = {1879-0445},
  language     = {eng},
  number       = {21},
  pages        = {1946--1949},
  publisher    = {Elsevier},
  series       = {Current Biology},
  title        = {Migratory birds use head scans to detect the direction of the Earth’s magnetic field},
  url          = {http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2004.10.025},
  volume       = {14},
  year         = {2004},
}