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Science 336 (6084): 991-992

Copyright © 2012 by the American Association for the Advancement of Science

An Avian Magnetometer

Michael Winklhofer

Homing pigeons have remarkable navigational skills that allow them to find their way back to the loft when released from an unfamiliar location hundreds of miles away. To perform such a feat, they rely on various cues, such as odors and Earth's magnetic field (1, 2). Yet, how birds and other animals obtain magnetic-field information has been a mystery. On page 1054 of this issue, Wu and Dickman (3) report how this information is neurally encoded and suggest a candidate magnetic sensory organ in the inner ear of the pigeon (4).

Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Ludwig-Maximilians University, Munich, Germany.

E-mail: michael{at}

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