Brief Communications Arising | Published:

Robins have a magnetic compass in both eyes

Nature volume 471, page E1 (31 March 2011) | Download Citation


Arising from W. Wiltschko et al. Nature 419, 467–470 (2002)10.1038/nature00958; Wiltschko et al. reply

The magnetic compass of migratory birds is embedded in the visual system1,2,3 and it has been reported by Wiltschko et al.1 that European Robins, Erithacus rubecula, cannot show magnetic compass orientation using their left eye only. This has led to the notion that the magnetic compass should be located only in the right eye of birds1,3,4,5. However, a complete right lateralization of the magnetic compass would be very surprising, and functional neuroanatomical data have questioned this notion2,6,7,8. Here we show that the results of Wiltschko et al.1 could not be independently confirmed using double-blind protocols. European Robins can perform magnetic compass orientation with both eyes open, with the left eye open only, and with the right eye open only. No clear lateralization is observed.

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Author information


  1. *AG “Neurosensorik/Animal Navigation”, IBU, University of Oldenburg, D-26111 Oldenburg, Germany

    • Christine Maira Hein
    • , Svenja Engels
    • , Dmitry Kishkinev
    •  & Henrik Mouritsen


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Competing interests

Competing financial interests: declared none.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Henrik Mouritsen.

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