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Instrumentations to investigate magnetoreception in homing pigeons (Columba livia)

Aldoumani, Noor 2017. Instrumentations to investigate magnetoreception in homing pigeons (Columba livia). PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.
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Seasonal migration of birds from one place to another is a very complex phenomenon investigated by researchers for many years. Birds move from one area to other often covering thousands of kilometres, and some species even fly only at night. In order to find the proper direction and their way to specific areas, birds use many cues, which can vary, for example objects that can be seen, smell or the perception of other environmental features. The type of cue depends upon whether the birds have to travel a short distance or if they have to travel to distant locations. The cues for birds, which migrate at day time, are rather different from those who travel at night. The first chapter of this thesis covers details of the strategies that pigeons use when homing and the interplay of the various navigation cues used. Various experiments have been carried out on pigeons but the results are quite complex. However, previous experiments have demonstrated that pigeons have the ability to use geomagnetism as a reference in order to find their way. The inclination and intensity of the field vector are both used as references. In this PhD research, I mainly focused on getting an answer whether homing pigeons are able to sense the Earth's magnetic field, which could then be used as a navigational cue in order to navigate and migrate. I have designed a 3D Helmholtz coil setup to a create variety of artificial magnetic fields and tried to evaluate the bird’s horizontal head movements recorded by a camera located above the coils. The effect of different fields has been examined, such as sweeping, null, steady and flipping fields. Evidence was found that homing pigeons are able to distinguish a flipping field from a steady field, and this can be observed by changes in their head movement. Homing pigeons have also been shown to distinguish different frequencies of flipping inclination field conditions. Data analysis has revealed that the pigeons respond more obviously to a field rotating in both directions, clockwise and counter clockwise. This response has been seen whether compared to a natural baseline or artificial baseline. However, the pigeons' response to the other magnetic field conditions varied significantly depending on the baseline type. III Noor Aldoumani Content Also, I focused on developing a head tracking system in order to extract pigeon's head saccades more accurately while the pigeons are experiencing the various field conditions. The main aim of the new tracking system is to investigate a pigeon's response to the Earth's magnetic field, which requires 3D monitoring of its motor responses to various stimuli. Conventional video analysis (VTA) involves tracking a 2D image, and the resulting data can be noisy and limited to a single field of view (one rotational angle).

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Date Type: Completion
Status: Unpublished
Schools: Engineering
Uncontrolled Keywords: magnetoreception; holmholtz coils; IMU (internal measurements unit); homing pigeons; magnetic field uniformity; OKN.
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 16 August 2017
Last Modified: 20 Apr 2021 13:59

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