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Title: Behavioural and psychophysical responses to magnetic and visual stimuli in homing pigeons
Author: Barnes, John
ISNI:       0000 0004 5916 0893
Awarding Body: Cardiff University
Current Institution: Cardiff University
Date of Award: 2016
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It has been demonstrated repeatedly, over a period of many years that some animals can perceive magnetic field parameters and use this sensory information to their advantage. The sensory mechanisms involved are, however, still poorly understood. Due to a general lack of understanding of magnetoreception and its properties, experiments to date have been somewhat disjointed with many, often very different, investigative approaches being employed. As a result, direct corroboration of results is uncommon and progress is often slow. Advancement of this field is important for numerous reasons, such as improving knowledge of factors affecting animal migration in a time of concern over climate change and the possible imminent change in earth’s magnetic field parameters. Perhaps most significantly, such studies might provide a potential keystone in the study of the function of quantum mechanical processes in biological systems. The current study utilises a novel approach, designed to ensure improved reproducibility. Reported here for the first time, prepulse inhibition of a startle response is used to investigate magnetoreception in the homing pigeon (Columba livia). This powerful, well-characterised paradigm relies on reflexive behaviours and therefore ensures an objective method for demonstrating the perception of a stimulus. Visual psychophysics and polarised light vision are also explored. Proof of concept is provided for the use of prepulse inhibition to investigate magnetoreception. The value of using liquid crystal displays in an investigation of pigeon head movements, in magnetoreception and more generally, is demonstrated. A new, low invasiveness technique for tracking head movements is described. The need to eliminate anthropogenic electromagnetic signals in order to carry out reliable magnetoreception experiments is highlighted. Suggestions are also made regarding possible future directions of research in this area.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: RE Ophthalmology