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Avian magnetic compass: fast adjustment to intensities outside the normal functional window

Avian magnetic compass: fast adjustment to intensities outside the normal functional window

Die Naturwissenschaften 93(6): 300-304

To determine how fast birds can adapt to magnetic intensities outside the normal functional window of their magnetic compass, we tested migratory birds in a magnetic field of 92,000 nT, twice the intensity of the local geomagnetic field at the test site in Frankfurt a.M., Germany. In the local field, robins showed a significant preference of their southerly migratory direction, whereas in the 92,000-nT field, they were initially disoriented. However, when the birds were preexposed to 92,000 nT for 1 h before being tested, they were able to orient under this intensity, and their behavior did not differ from that in the geomagnetic field. These data show that birds require only a short time to adjust to magnetic intensities, which they cannot spontaneously use for orientation. Interpreting these findings in view of the radical pair model (Ritz et al. 2000), this means that they can learn rather quickly to interpret novel activation patterns on their retina.

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Accession: 011794637

Download citation: RISBibTeXText

PMID: 16586120

DOI: 10.1007/s00114-006-0102-5

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