Lateralized response of chicks to magnetic cues

Lesley Rogers, Ursula Munro, Rafael Freire, Roswitha Wiltschko, Wolfgang Wiltschko

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Citations (Scopus)
25 Downloads (Pure)


Previous research has shown that the ability to orient using spatial cues is lateralized in three avian species: orientation using magnetic cues being possible when the bird is restricted to use of its right eye (left hemisphere) but not when it has to use its left eye (right hemisphere). This has been interpreted as a specialized ability to perceive magnetic cues when using the right eye and as evidence of a possible right retina-located pigment that is used in detecting the magnetic field. Recent discovery of the domestic chicks ability to orient using magnetic cues, we has made available a model system in which to explore these lateralized processes more fully. This is because the most complete body of information about avian lateralization is known for the chick. Hence we tested chicks monocularly in the same test as used previously to demonstrate their ability to respond to magnetic cues. As in the other species, we found that chicks using their right eye oriented according to magnetic cues, whereas chicks using the left eye did not. However, detailed examination of our results showed that the chicks could detect the magnetic field when using the left eye although they preferred to orient using other cues (possibly auditory), unless the experimentally applied magnetic field was aligned with the earth's and they had to go North to make a correct choice. Hence the lateralization is not a matter of a right eye-left hemisphere specialization for perceiving magnetic cues, as argued previously, but of hemispheric specialization for attending to magnetic cues relative to other cues.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)66-71
Number of pages6
JournalBehavioural Brain Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2008

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