A New Type of Radical-Pair-Based Model for Magnetoreception

A. Marshall Stoneham, Erik M. Gauger*, Kyriakos Porfyrakis, Simon C. Benjamin, Brendon W. Lovett

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debatepeer-review

33 Citations (Scopus)


Certain migratory birds can sense the Earth's magnetic field. The nature of this process is not yet properly understood. Hereweoffer a simple explanation according to which birds literally see the local magnetic field through the impact of a physical rather than a chemical signature of the radical pair: a transient, long-lived electric dipole moment. Based on this premise, our picture can explain recent surprising experimental data indicating long lifetimes for the radical pair. Moreover, there is a clear evolutionary path toward this field-sensing mechanism: it is an enhancement of a weak effect that may be present in many species.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)961-968
Number of pages8
JournalBiophysical Journal
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 7 Mar 2012


  • Photoreceptor-based magnetoreception
  • Magnetic compass orientation
  • Electric-field
  • Chemical magnetoreception
  • Bacteriorhodopsin BR570
  • Avian magnetoreception
  • Migratory birds
  • Homing pigeons
  • DNA photolyase
  • Mechanism


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