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Disruption of Magnetic Compass Orientation in Migratory Birds by Radiofrequency Electromagnetic Fields

Disruption of Magnetic Compass Orientation in Migratory Birds by Radiofrequency Electromagnetic Fields

Biophysical Journal 113(7): 1475-1484

The radical-pair mechanism has been put forward as the basis of the magnetic compass sense of migratory birds. Some of the strongest supporting evidence has come from behavioral experiments in which birds exposed to weak time-dependent magnetic fields lose their ability to orient in the geomagnetic field. However, conflicting results and skepticism about the requirement for abnormally long quantum coherence lifetimes have cast a shroud of uncertainty over these potentially pivotal studies. Using a recently developed computational approach, we explore the effects of various radiofrequency magnetic fields on biologically plausible radicals within the theoretical framework of radical-pair magnetoreception. We conclude that the current model of radical-pair magnetoreception is unable to explain the findings of the reported behavioral experiments. Assuming that an unknown mechanism amplifies the predicted effects, we suggest experimental conditions that have the potential to distinguish convincingly between the two distinct families of radical pairs currently postulated as magnetic compass sensors. We end by making recommendations for experimental protocols that we hope will increase the chance that future experiments can be independently replicated.

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Accession: 059618320

Download citation: RISBibTeXText

PMID: 28978441

DOI: 10.1016/j.bpj.2017.07.031

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