A new model for a magnetoreceptor in homing pigeons based on interacting clusters of superparamagnetic magnetite


Davila, A.F., Fleissner, G., Winklhofer, M. and Petersen, N. (2003) A new model for a magnetoreceptor in homing pigeons based on interacting clusters of superparamagnetic magnetite. Physics and Chemistry of the Earth, Parts A,B,C, 28, (16-19), 647-652. (doi:10.1016/S1474-7065(03)00118-9).

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Description/Abstract

We present a new model of magnetic-field reception in magnetite-containing nerve terminals, which have recently been identified in the upper-beak skin of homing pigeons. The potentially magnetoreceptive nerve cells comprise chain-like aggregates with up to 20 closely spaced clusters of superparamagnetic (SP) magnetite. We designed experiments on superparamagnetic model systems to simulate the behaviour of the aggregates in varying magnetic fields. Magnetic-field induced interactions between the clusters in an aggregate gives rise to attractive and repulsive forces between the clusters. The resulting stress on the surrounding cellular structures varies with field direction and intensity. Our model is able to explain the principal features of the magnetic sense in homing pigeons as derived from behavioural experiments.

Item Type: Article
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Keywords: Superparamagnetic magnetite; Inclination compass; Ferrofluid; Nervous terminals; Mechanoreceptors
Subjects: Q Science > QE Geology
Divisions: University Structure - Pre August 2011 > School of Ocean & Earth Science (SOC/SOES)
ePrint ID: 1336
Date Deposited: 06 May 2004
Last Modified: 27 Mar 2014 18:00
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/1336

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