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      Robins have a magnetic compass in both eyes

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          Abstract

          Arising from W. Wiltschko et al. 419, 467-470 (2002); Wiltschko et al. replyThe magnetic compass of migratory birds is embedded in the visual system and it has been reported by Wiltschko et al. that European Robins, Erithacus rubecula, cannot show magnetic compass orientation using their left eye only. This has led to the notion that the magnetic compass should be located only in the right eye of birds. However, a complete right lateralization of the magnetic compass would be very surprising, and functional neuroanatomical data have questioned this notion. Here we show that the results of Wiltschko et al. could not be independently confirmed using double-blind protocols. European Robins can perform magnetic compass orientation with both eyes open, with the left eye open only, and with the right eye open only. No clear lateralization is observed.

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          Most cited references 13

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          Visual but not trigeminal mediation of magnetic compass information in a migratory bird.

          Magnetic compass information has a key role in bird orientation, but the physiological mechanisms enabling birds to sense the Earth's magnetic field remain one of the unresolved mysteries in biology. Two biophysical mechanisms have become established as the most promising magnetodetection candidates. The iron-mineral-based hypothesis suggests that magnetic information is detected by magnetoreceptors in the upper beak and transmitted through the ophthalmic branch of the trigeminal nerve to the brain. The light-dependent hypothesis suggests that magnetic field direction is sensed by radical pair-forming photopigments in the eyes and that this visual signal is processed in cluster N, a specialized, night-time active, light-processing forebrain region. Here we report that European robins with bilateral lesions of cluster N are unable to show oriented magnetic-compass-guided behaviour but are able to perform sun compass and star compass orientation behaviour. In contrast, bilateral section of the ophthalmic branch of the trigeminal nerve in European robins did not influence the birds' ability to use their magnetic compass for orientation. These data show that cluster N is required for magnetic compass orientation in this species and indicate that it may be specifically involved in processing of magnetic compass information. Furthermore, the data strongly suggest that a vision-mediated mechanism underlies the magnetic compass in this migratory songbird, and that the putative iron-mineral-based receptors in the upper beak connected to the brain by the trigeminal nerve are neither necessary nor sufficient for magnetic compass orientation in European robins.
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            Molecular Mapping of Movement-Associated Areas in the Avian Brain: A Motor Theory for Vocal Learning Origin

            Vocal learning is a critical behavioral substrate for spoken human language. It is a rare trait found in three distantly related groups of birds-songbirds, hummingbirds, and parrots. These avian groups have remarkably similar systems of cerebral vocal nuclei for the control of learned vocalizations that are not found in their more closely related vocal non-learning relatives. These findings led to the hypothesis that brain pathways for vocal learning in different groups evolved independently from a common ancestor but under pre-existing constraints. Here, we suggest one constraint, a pre-existing system for movement control. Using behavioral molecular mapping, we discovered that in songbirds, parrots, and hummingbirds, all cerebral vocal learning nuclei are adjacent to discrete brain areas active during limb and body movements. Similar to the relationships between vocal nuclei activation and singing, activation in the adjacent areas correlated with the amount of movement performed and was independent of auditory and visual input. These same movement-associated brain areas were also present in female songbirds that do not learn vocalizations and have atrophied cerebral vocal nuclei, and in ring doves that are vocal non-learners and do not have cerebral vocal nuclei. A compilation of previous neural tracing experiments in songbirds suggests that the movement-associated areas are connected in a network that is in parallel with the adjacent vocal learning system. This study is the first global mapping that we are aware for movement-associated areas of the avian cerebrum and it indicates that brain systems that control vocal learning in distantly related birds are directly adjacent to brain systems involved in movement control. Based upon these findings, we propose a motor theory for the origin of vocal learning, this being that the brain areas specialized for vocal learning in vocal learners evolved as a specialization of a pre-existing motor pathway that controls movement.
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              Cryptochromes and neuronal-activity markers colocalize in the retina of migratory birds during magnetic orientation.

              Migratory birds can use a magnetic compass for orientation during their migratory journeys covering thousands of kilometers. But how do they sense the reference direction provided by the Earth's magnetic field? Behavioral evidence and theoretical considerations have suggested that radical-pair processes in differently oriented, light-sensitive molecules of the retina could enable migratory birds to perceive the magnetic field as visual patterns. The cryptochromes (CRYs) have been suggested as the most likely candidate class of molecules, but do CRYs exist in the retina of migratory birds? Here, we show that at least one CRY1 and one CRY2 exist in the retina of migratory garden warblers and that garden-warbler CRY1 (gwCRY1) is cytosolic. We also show that gwCRY1 is concentrated in specific cells, particularly in ganglion cells and in large displaced ganglion cells, which also showed high levels of neuronal activity at night, when our garden warblers performed magnetic orientation. In addition, there seem to be striking differences in CRY1 expression between migratory and nonmigratory songbirds at night. The difference in CRY1 expression between migrants and nonmigrants is particularly pronounced in the large displaced ganglion cells known to project exclusively to a brain area where magnetically sensitive neurons have been reported. Consequently, cytosolic gwCRY1 is well placed to possibly be the primary magnetic-sensory molecule required for light-mediated magnetoreception.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Nature
                Nature
                Springer Science and Business Media LLC
                0028-0836
                1476-4687
                March 31 2011
                March 30 2011
                March 31 2011
                : 471
                : 7340
                : E1
                Article
                10.1038/nature09875
                21455128
                © 2011

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