• Open Access

Night-time neuronal activation of Cluster N in a day- and night-migrating songbird

Authors

  • Manuela Zapka,

    1. AG “Neurosensorik”, Institut für Biologie und Umweltwissenschaften, University of Oldenburg, D-26111 Oldenburg, Germany
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  • Dominik Heyers,

    1. AG “Neurosensorik”, Institut für Biologie und Umweltwissenschaften, University of Oldenburg, D-26111 Oldenburg, Germany
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  • Miriam Liedvogel,

    1. AG “Neurosensorik”, Institut für Biologie und Umweltwissenschaften, University of Oldenburg, D-26111 Oldenburg, Germany
    2. Department of Ecology, Animal Ecology, Lund University, Sölvegatan, Lund, Sweden
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  • Erich D. Jarvis,

    1. Department of Neurobiology, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC 27710, USA
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  • Henrik Mouritsen

    1. AG “Neurosensorik”, Institut für Biologie und Umweltwissenschaften, University of Oldenburg, D-26111 Oldenburg, Germany
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Drs E. D. Jarvis or H. Mouritsen, as above.
E-mails: henrik.mouritsen@uni-oldenburg.de; jarvis@neuro.duke.edu

Abstract

Magnetic compass orientation in a night-migratory songbird requires that Cluster N, a cluster of forebrain regions, is functional. Cluster N, which receives input from the eyes via the thalamofugal pathway, shows high neuronal activity in night-migrants performing magnetic compass-guided behaviour at night, whereas no activation is observed during the day, and covering up the birds’ eyes strongly reduces neuronal activation. These findings suggest that Cluster N processes light-dependent magnetic compass information in night-migrating songbirds. The aim of this study was to test if Cluster N is active during daytime migration. We used behavioural molecular mapping based on ZENK activation to investigate if Cluster N is active in the meadow pipit (Anthus pratensis), a day- and night-migratory species. We found that Cluster N of meadow pipits shows high neuronal activity under dim-light at night, but not under full room-light conditions during the day. These data suggest that, in day- and night-migratory meadow pipits, the light-dependent magnetic compass, which requires an active Cluster N, may only be used during night-time, whereas another magnetosensory mechanism and/or other reference system(s), like the sun or polarized light, may be used as primary orientation cues during the day.

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