An Avian Magnetometer

Science  25 May 2012:
Vol. 336, Issue 6084, pp. 991-992
DOI: 10.1126/science.1223786

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Homing pigeons have remarkable navigational skills that allow them to find their way back to the loft when released from an unfamiliar location hundreds of miles away. To perform such a feat, they rely on various cues, such as odors and Earth's magnetic field (1, 2). Yet, how birds and other animals obtain magnetic-field information has been a mystery. On page 1054 of this issue, Wu and Dickman (3) report how this information is neurally encoded and suggest a candidate magnetic sensory organ in the inner ear of the pigeon (4).