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Biophysics of magnetic orientation: strengthening the interface between theory and experimental design

Kirschvink, J. L., M. Winklhofer, and M. M. Walker (2010), Biophysics of magnetic orientation: strengthening the interface between theory and experimental design, J. R. Soc. Interface, 7, S179-S191, doi:10.1098/rsif.2009.0491.focus, Free Access.

Abstract
The first demonstrations of magnetic effects on the behaviour of migratory birds and homing pigeons in laboratory and field experiments, respectively, provided evidence for the longstanding hypothesis that animals such as birds that migrate and home over long distances would benefit from possession of a magnetic sense. Subsequent identification of at least two plausible biophysical mechanisms for magnetoreception in animals, one based on biogenic magnetite and another on radical-pair biochemical reactions, led to major efforts over recent decades to test predictions of the two models, as well as efforts to understand the ultrastructure and function of the possible magnetoreceptor cells. Unfortunately, progress in understanding the magnetic sense has been challenged by: (i) the availability of a relatively small number of techniques for analysing behavioural responses to magnetic fields by animals; (ii) difficulty in achieving reproducible results using the techniques; and (iii) difficulty in development and implementation of new techniques that might bring greater experimental power. As a consequence, laboratory and field techniques used to study the magnetic sense today remain substantially unchanged, despite the huge developments in technology and instrumentation since the techniques were developed in the 1950s. New methods developed for behavioural study of the magnetic sense over the last 30 years include the use of laboratory conditioning techniques and tracking devices based on transmission of radio signals to and from satellites. Here we consider methodological developments in the study of the magnetic sense and present suggestions for increasing the reproducibility and ease of interpretation of experimental studies. We recommend that future experiments invest more effort in automating control of experiments and data capture, control of stimulation and full blinding of experiments in the rare cases where automation is impossible. We also propose new experiments to confirm whether or not animals can detect magnetic fields using the radical-pair effect together with an alternate hypothesis that may explain the dependence on light of responses by animals to magnetic field stimuli.
BibTeX
@article{id1500,
  author = {J. L. Kirschvink and M. Winklhofer and M. M. Walker},
  journal = {J. R. Soc. Interface},
  month = {feb},
  note = {Free Access},
  pages = {S179-S191},
  title = {{Biophysics of magnetic orientation: strengthening the interface between theory and experimental design}},
  volume = {7},
  year = {2010},
  language = {en},
  doi = {10.1098/rsif.2009.0491.focus},
}
EndNote
%0 Journal Article
%A Kirschvink, J. L.
%A Winklhofer, M.
%A Walker, M. M.
%D 2010
%V 7
%J J. R. Soc. Interface
%P S179-S191
%Z Free Access
%T Biophysics of magnetic orientation: strengthening the interface between theory and experimental design
%8 feb
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