Magnetic Sense

Science Signaling  29 May 2012:
Vol. 5, Issue 226, pp. ec153
DOI: 10.1126/scisignal.2003255

Many species orient and navigate using aspects of Earth’s magnetic field. Magnetic receptors have been found in the eyes, ears, and bills of birds, but there has been no clear evidence of the neural mechanism by which magnetic signals are translated into direction. Recording from the brainstem within conscious pigeons, Wu and Dickman (see the Perspective by Winklhofer) reveal the presence of neurons in the pigeon’s brain that encode the inclination angle and intensity of the geomagnetic field. Thus, pigeons, and perhaps other species, can develop an internal model of geopositional latitude to facilitate spatial orientation and navigation based on magnetoreception.

L.-Q. Wu, J. D. Dickman, Neural correlates of a magnetic sense. Science 336, 1054–1057 (2012). [Abstract] [Full Text]

M. Winklhofer, An avian magnetometer. Science 336, 991–992 (2012). [Abstract] [Full Text]