Diverse animals can orient using geomagnetic cues, but little is known about the neurophysiological mechanisms that underlie magnetic field detection. The marine mollusc Tritonia diomedea (Bergh) has a magnetic sense and its nervous system is amenable to cellular-level electrophysiological analysis. In a semi-intact whole-animal preparation, intracellular recordings from the large, visually identifiable neurons left pedal 5 (LPe5) and right pedal 5 (RPe5) in the brain of Tritonia revealed enhanced electrical activity in response to changes in ambient earth-strength magnetic fields. No such changes in activity were observed in approximately 50 other neurons subjected to identical magnetic stimuli. The responses of LPe5 were characterized by increases in spiking frequency occurring about 6–16 min after the ambient magnetic field had been rotated to a new position. The response was abolished when the brain had been isolated from the periphery of the animal by severing nerves, a procedure that also transected prominent neurites of LPe5. We hypothesize that LPe5 is one component of a neural circuit mediating detection of the earth's magnetic field or orientation to it.

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