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Overbearing colored light may reveal a second mechanism by which birds interpret magnetic signals

ions clearly showed that this orientation involved the inclination compass and suggested that it is based on the type of "chemical compass" processes predicted by the Ritz model.

However, the researchers also found that under brighter turquoise light, corresponding to light levels found 20 min after sunset, the birds still orient by the magnetic field, but they no longer show the seasonal change between spring and autumn and instead head north in both seasons. This behavior did not appear to involve the normal inclination-compass and chemical-compass mechanisms.

The new findings show that bright-colored light interferes with magnetoreception such that migratory birds can no longer obtain the information required to head into their migratory direction. The findings point to the existence of two distinct mechanisms of magnetoreceptors in the birds--an inclination compass and a polarity-driven compass. It is especially intriguing that under some conditions, birds appear to switch to the polarity-type magnetic response, which is based on a mechanism of a very different nature than that thought to contribute to the inclination mechanism.


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Contact: Heidi Hardman
hhardman@cell.com
1-617-397-2879
Cell Press
22-Aug-2005


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