Researchers have identified a component of pigeons' magnetic compass"With what sense does the tame pigeon measure out the expanse?" wondered William Blake. That sense is magnetoreception, and is the most enigmatic of all the senses. We know that pigeons and many other animals rely on the Earth's magnetic field to orient themselves and navigate, but how they detect information about the magnetic field and use it to map space remain something of a mystery.Researchers from the Baylor College of Medicine have now identified a component in the pigeon's global positioning system. In a study published online in the journal Science, they describe neurons in the pigeon brain that are sensitive to magnetic fields.The Earth's magnetic field contains a number of cues that animals use to navigate: the inclination, or angle, of the field, which varies from 0° at the equator to plus or minus 90° at the North and South...
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