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Light-dependent magnetic compass orientation in amphibians and insects: candidate receptors and candidate molecular mechanisms

  • John B. Phillips
  • Paulo E. Jorge
  • Rachel Muheim
Publishing year: 2010
Language: English
Pages: 241-256
Publication/Series: Journal of the Royal Society Interface
Volume: 7
Document type: Journal article
Publisher: Royal Society

Abstract english

Magnetic compass orientation by amphibians, and some insects, is mediated by a light-dependent magnetoreception mechanism. Cryptochrome photopigments, best known for their role in circadian rhythms, are proposed to mediate such responses. In this paper, we explore light-dependent properties of magnetic sensing at three levels: (i) behavioural (wavelength-dependent effects of light on magnetic compass orientation), (ii) physiological (photoreceptors/photopigment systems with properties suggesting a role in magnetoreception), and (iii) molecular (cryptochrome-based and non-cryptochrome-based signalling pathways that are compatible with behavioural responses). Our goal is to identify photoreceptors and signalling pathways that are likely to play a specialized role in magnetoreception in order to definitively answer the question of whether the effects of light on magnetic compass orientation are mediated by a light-dependent magnetoreception mechanism, or instead are due to input from a non-light-dependent (e. g. magnetite-based) magnetoreception mechanism that secondarily interacts with other light-dependent processes.


  • Zoology
  • magnetic compass
  • compound eye
  • pineal
  • cryptochrome
  • magnetoreception
  • photoreception


  • ISSN: 1742-5662
Rachel Muheim
E-mail: rachel [dot] muheim [at] biol [dot] lu [dot] se


Functional zoology

+46 46 222 31 93



Centre for Animal Movement Research
Evolutionary Ecology, Department of Biology
Ecology building S-223 62 Lund Sweden