In view of the reported involvement of the retinae in mediating magnetic field effects on pineal function in rats, the present study sought to test the hypothesis - based on theoretical calculations - that dim light activation of photoreceptors is necessary for magnetoreception by the retinae. Adult male rats were exposed to a single nocturnal inversion of the earth's magnetic field in the presence or absence of dim red light. Pineal gland N-acetyltransferase and hydroxyindole-O-methyltransferase activities were measured as indices of magnetosensitivity. In animals exposed to dim red light, pineal enzyme activities were inhibited significantly by the magnetic stimulus in comparison to controls (dim red light only). In contrast, the pineal response to a magnetic stimulus was absent in total darkness. These results support the notion that photoreceptor stimulation by dim light is necessary for the perception of weak magnetic fields.