London, October 29 (ANI): In a new study, German scientists studied 36 European robins and concluded that the birds can 'see' the Earth's magnetic field, allowing them to navigate.
According to a report in the Telegraph, the information, relayed to a specialised light-processing region of the brain called "cluster N", helps the robin find its way on migration flights.
Experts know birds possess an internal magnetic compass, but there is disagreement about what form it takes. ne idea is that tiny magnets in the beak wired to the nervous system detect lines of magnetic force.
Another is that magnetic fields are "seen" via the eyes using a complex light-sensitive mechanism.
The new research suggests that, for robins at least, the second theory is probably correct.
German scientists studied 36 European robins and found birds with damage to "cluster N" were unable to orientate themselves using the Earth's magnetic field.
But damage to another nerve channel necessary for a beak-sensing system had no effect.
According to the researchers, led by Dr Henrik Mouritsen from the University of Oldenburg, "The results of the present study specifically suggest that cluster N of European robins is an essential part of a circuit processing light-dependent magnetic compass information for night-time orientation."
"The exact role of cluster N within this circuit has not been determined, but the present results raise the distinct possibility that this part of the visual system enables birds to 'see' magnetic compass information," he said. (ANI)