Robins have a magnetic compass in both eyes

Nature. 2011 Mar 31;471(7340):E11-2; discussion E12-3. doi: 10.1038/nature09875.


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.

Publication types

  • Comment
  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Animal Migration / physiology*
  • Animal Migration / radiation effects
  • Animals
  • Eye* / radiation effects
  • Functional Laterality / physiology
  • Magnetics*
  • Models, Biological
  • Ocular Physiological Phenomena* / radiation effects
  • Orientation / physiology*
  • Orientation / radiation effects
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Seasons
  • Songbirds / anatomy & histology
  • Songbirds / physiology*