Behavioural investigation of polarisation sensitivity in the Japanese quail (Coturnix coturnix japonica) and the European starling (Sturnus vulgaris)

Verity J. Greenwood, Emma L. Smith, Stuart C. Church, Julian C. Partridge

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

15 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Many animals have sensitivity to the e-vector of linearly polarised light, which may assist in visually mediated behaviours such as navigation, signalling and foraging. However, it is still controversial as to whether birds possess polarisation sensitivity. Several studies have found that altering the polarisation patterns of the broad visual field surrounding birds alters their intended migratory orientation. However, electrophysiological tests have failed to elicit evidence for polarisation sensitivity in birds, and the mechanism by which birds might perceive polarised light is unknown. In this experiment, we trained Japanese quail and European starlings to discriminate stimuli differing in their polarisation pattern. Although both quail and starlings were able to discriminate stimuli in which the stimulus sub-components either differed or had the same radiant intensity (the control task), they were unable to discriminate stimuli in which the e-vector orientations of the stimulus sub-components either differed by 90° or had the same angle of polarisation. The birds' successful performance on the control task, but failure to complete the polarisation task, demonstrated that they had all the necessary cognitive abilities to make the discrimination except sensitivity to angle of polarisation. We conclude that quail and starlings are unable to use polarisation cues in this foraging task.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3201-3210
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Volume206
Issue number18
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2003
Externally publishedYes

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