Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Migratory songbirds have a specialized night-vision brain area

24.05.2005


Neurobiologists have discovered a specialized night-vision brain area in night-migratory songbirds. They believe the area might enable the birds to navigate by the stars, and to visually detect the earth’s magnetic field through photoreceptor molecules, whose light-sensitivity is modulated by the field.



The researchers published their findings May 23, 2005, in the early online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The collaboration was led by Henrik Mouritsen of the University of Oldenberg in Germany and Erich Jarvis of the Duke University Medical Center. Other co-authors were Gesa Feenders and Miriam Liedvogel in Mouritsen’s laboratory and Kazuhiro Wada in Jarvis’s laboratory. The research was supported by the VolkswagenStiftung to Mouritsen and the National Science Foundation’s Waterman Award to Jarvis.

To migrate successfully over thousands of miles at night, night-migratory birds need to see where they fly, as well as navigate by stars and the earth’s magnetic field. Surprisingly, Jarvis said, recent scientific evidence has suggested that birds have specialized molecules in their visual system that translate magnetic compass information into visual patterns. Thus, , the researchers hypothesized that night migratory birds would need a specialized night-vision brain area.


"There was no evidence of such a specialized region in night migratory birds before we began this research," Jarvis said.

In their study, the researchers compared two species of night-migratory songbirds -- garden warblers and European robins -- with two non-migratory songbirds -- zebra finches and canaries.

Using a transparent cylindrical cage in Mouritsen’s laboratory, they first accustomed the birds to the illumination equivalent of moonlight. They waited until the birds were sitting quietly to eliminate brain activity from movement. The researchers then quickly preserved the birds’ brains, and in Jarvis’s laboratory analyzed the brain structures for the active expression of two genes called ZENK and c-fos that signal activity in a particular brain region.

The researchers found that the night-migratory species showed strikingly high activity in a particular cluster of cells located adjacent to a known visual pathway. According to Jarvis, what excited the researchers was that the area, which they named Cluster N, was not active in the migratory birds during the daytime. Furthermore, non-migratory songbirds did not show strong activation in the Cluster N even under moonlight conditions.

To determine whether the brain cluster is really specialized for night-vision, the researchers performed the same gene expression analysis on the night-migratory songbird species with the birds’ eyes covered. The researchers found that blocking night-time vision dramatically reduced gene activity in cluster N.

"This result confirmed that night-migratory birds seem to have a brain area specifically adapted for seeing during their night-time flight," Jarvis said. The researchers suspect that the newly discovered brain region could be involved in processing and integrating light-dependent magnetic compass information and star compass information; and thus may be responsible for the impressive navigational abilities of birds migrating during the night. In future studies, Jarvis, Mouritsen and their colleagues plan to test this hypothesis in more detail, they said.

Dennis Meredith | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.duke.edu

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Fingerprint' technique spots frog populations at risk from pollution
27.03.2017 | Lancaster University

nachricht Parallel computation provides deeper insight into brain function
27.03.2017 | Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology (OIST) Graduate University

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Giant Magnetic Fields in the Universe

Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.

The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.

Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...

Im Focus: Tracing down linear ubiquitination

Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.

Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...

Im Focus: Perovskite edges can be tuned for optoelectronic performance

Layered 2D material improves efficiency for solar cells and LEDs

In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...

Im Focus: Polymer-coated silicon nanosheets as alternative to graphene: A perfect team for nanoelectronics

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...

Im Focus: Researchers Imitate Molecular Crowding in Cells

Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.

Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

International Land Use Symposium ILUS 2017: Call for Abstracts and Registration open

20.03.2017 | Event News

CONNECT 2017: International congress on connective tissue

14.03.2017 | Event News

ICTM Conference: Turbine Construction between Big Data and Additive Manufacturing

07.03.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Northern oceans pumped CO2 into the atmosphere

27.03.2017 | Earth Sciences

Fingerprint' technique spots frog populations at risk from pollution

27.03.2017 | Life Sciences

Big data approach to predict protein structure

27.03.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>