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Biosensors 2014, 4(3), 221-242; doi:10.3390/bios4030221

Sensing Magnetic Directions in Birds: Radical Pair Processes Involving Cryptochrome

Fachbereich Biowissenschaften, J.W. Goethe-Universität Frankfurt, Max von Laue Straße 13, D-60438 Frankfurt am Main, Germany
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Received: 30 April 2014 / Revised: 14 July 2014 / Accepted: 18 July 2014 / Published: 24 July 2014
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Magnetic Biosensors)
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Abstract

Birds can use the geomagnetic field for compass orientation. Behavioral experiments, mostly with migrating passerines, revealed three characteristics of the avian magnetic compass: (1) it works spontaneously only in a narrow functional window around the intensity of the ambient magnetic field, but can adapt to other intensities, (2) it is an “inclination compass”, not based on the polarity of the magnetic field, but the axial course of the field lines, and (3) it requires short-wavelength light from UV to 565 nm Green. The Radical Pair-Model of magnetoreception can explain these properties by proposing spin-chemical processes in photopigments as underlying mechanism. Applying radio frequency fields, a diagnostic tool for radical pair processes, supports an involvement of a radical pair mechanism in avian magnetoreception: added to the geomagnetic field, they disrupted orientation, presumably by interfering with the receptive processes. Cryptochromes have been suggested as receptor molecules. Cry1a is found in the eyes of birds, where it is located at the membranes of the disks in the outer segments of the UV-cones in chickens and robins. Immuno-histochemical studies show that it is activated by the wavelengths of light that allow magnetic compass orientation in birds. View Full-Text
Keywords: avian magnetic compass; inclination compass; functional window; Radical Pair Model; cryptochrome; Cry 1a; retina; UV/V cones avian magnetic compass; inclination compass; functional window; Radical Pair Model; cryptochrome; Cry 1a; retina; UV/V cones
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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY 3.0).

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Wiltschko, R.; Wiltschko, W. Sensing Magnetic Directions in Birds: Radical Pair Processes Involving Cryptochrome. Biosensors 2014, 4, 221-242.

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