Quantum Coherence and Sensitivity of Avian Magnetoreception
Migratory birds and other species have the ability to navigate by sensing the geomagnetic field. Recent experiments indicate that the essential process in the navigation takes place in the bird’s eye and uses chemical reaction involving molecular ions with unpaired electron spins (radical pair). Sensing is achieved via geomagnetic-dependent dynamics of the spins of the unpaired electrons. Here we utilize the results of two behavioral experiments conducted on European robins to argue that the average lifetime of the radical pair is of the order of a microsecond and therefore agrees with experimental estimations of this parameter for cryptochrome—a pigment believed to form the radical pairs. We also find a reasonable parameter regime where the sensitivity of the avian compass is enhanced by environmental noise, showing that long coherence time is not required for navigation and may even spoil it.