Recently, virtual magnetic displacement experiments have shown that magnetic cues are indeed important for determining position in migratory birds; but which sensory system(s) do they use to detect the magnetic map cues? Here, we show that Eurasian reed warblers need trigeminal input to detect that they have been virtually magnetically displaced. Birds with bilaterally ablated ophthalmic branches of the trigeminal nerves were not able to re-orient towards their conspecific breeding grounds after a virtual magnetic displacement, exactly like they were not able to compensate for a real physical displacement. In contrast, sham-operated reed warblers re-oriented after the virtual displacement, like intact controls did in the past. Our results show that trigeminally mediated sensory information is necessary for the correct function of the reed warblers’ magnetic positioning system.
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