Magnetoreception in the wood mouse (Apodemus sylvaticus): influence of weak frequency-modulated radio frequency fields


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Nature Publishing Group


The mammalian magnetic sense is predominantly studied in species with reduced vision such as mole-rats and bats. Far less is known about surface-dwelling (epigeic) rodents with well-developed eyes. Here, we tested the wood mouse Apodemus sylvaticus for magnetoreception using a simple behavioural assay in which mice are allowed to build nests overnight in a visually symmetrical, circular arena. The tests were performed in the ambientmagnetic field or in a field rotated by 906.When plotted with respect tomagnetic north, the nests were bimodally clustered in the northern and southern sectors, clearly indicating that the animals used magnetic cues. Additionally,micewere tested in the ambientmagnetic field with a superimposed radio frequencymagnetic field of the order of 100 nT.Wood mice exposed to a 0.9 to 5 MHz frequency sweep changed their preference from north-south to east-west. In contrast tobirds, however, a constant frequency field tuned to the Larmor frequency (1.33 MHz) had no effect on mouse orientation. In sum, we demonstratedmagnetoreception in wood mice and provide first evidence for a radical-pair mechanism in a mammal.



magnetic compass orientation, directional preference, subterranean rodent, pair mechanism, homing pigeons, birds, mammals, mice, cryptochrome, navigation