High resolution micro-XRF maps of iron oxides inside sensory dendrites of putative avian magnetoreceptors
Faculty of Sciences. Chemistry
Journal of physics : conference series. - Bristol
, p. 1-3
University of Antwerp
Iron mineral containing sensory dendrites in the inner lining of the upper beak of homing pigeons  and various bird species  are the first candidate structures for an avian magnetic field receptor. A new concept of magnetoreception [3, 4] is based on detailed ultra-structural optical and electron microscopy analyses in combination with synchrotron radiation microscopic X-ray fluorescence analysis (micro-XRF) and microscopic X-ray absorption near edge structures (micro-XANES). Several behavioral experiments [5, 6] and first mathematical simulations  affirm our avian magnetoreceptor model. The iron minerals inside the dendrites are housed in three different subcellular compartments (bullets, platelets, vesicles), which could be clearly resolved and identified by electron microscopy on ultrathin sections [1, 3]. Micro-XRF and micro-XANES data obtained at HASYLAB beamline L added information about the elemental distribution and Fe speciation , but are averaged over the complete dendrite due to limited spatial resolution. Here we present recently performed micro-XRF maps with sub-micrometer resolution (ESRF ID21), which reveal for the first time subcellular structural information from almost bulk-like dendrite sample material. Due to the thickness of 30 μm the microarchitecture of the dendrites can be considered as undisturbed and artefacts introduced by sectioning might be widely reduced.