Magnetoreception in birds

Authors: Roswitha Wiltschko and Wolfgang Wiltschko

Year: 2019

Publication: Journal of the Royal Society Interface

Publication Link:

Keywords: radical pair processes, flavin adenine dinucleotide cycle, superparamagnetic magnetite, trigeminal nerve, magnetic pulse, radiofrequency fields

Abstract: Birds can use two kinds of information from the geomagnetic field for navigation: the direction of the field lines as a compass and probably magnetic intensity as a component of the navigational ‘map’. The direction of the magnetic field appears to be sensed via radical pair processes in the eyes, with the crucial radical pairs formed by cryptochrome. It is transmitted by the optic nerve to the brain, where parts of the visual system seem to process the respective information. Magnetic intensity appears to be perceived by magnetite-based receptors in the beak region; the information is transmitted by the ophthalmic branch of the trigeminal nerve to the trigeminal ganglion and the trigeminal brainstem nuclei. Yet in spite of considerable progress in recent years, many details are still unclear, among them details of the radical pair processes and their transformation into a nervous signal, the precise location of the magnetite-based receptors and the centres in the brain where magnetic information is combined with other navigational
information for the navigational processes.

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