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Birds Can 'See' the Earth's Magnetic Field

Recently, a new discovery has been brought up by the researchers at the Lund University, Sweden. It states that the birds cannot orient themselves making use of the Earth’s magnetic field, if a certain protein is absent. It is assumed that those receptors that are present in the eyes of the bird are those that sense the earth’s magnetic field.

The researchers have indulged into the study of various proteins present in the eyes of zebra finches. They observed that one out of all the proteins was different. They found that only Cry4 maintains a constant level all day and in varying lightning conditions. The Cry4 protein usually helps in maintaining the biological clock, but it has also been found important for the magnetic sense. The researchers thereby reached the conclusion that the Cry4 protein is helpful in the magnetic sense to function, whereas all other cryptochromes present, whose levels in the body change several times in the day, are helpful in regulating the biological clock. In the previous year, Atticus Pinzón-Rodríguez and his colleagues revealed that not only migratory birds navigate with the help of a magnetic compass but also resident birds that do not migrate in the spring and autumn have a magnetic sense and they navigate with the help of their internal magnetic compass. The consolidated results of the present and the previous year reveal that all animals have magnetic receptors and can easily pick up on magnetic fields. The researchers are planning to further study in detail the method by which animals make use of Earth's magnetic field. This knowledge shall further be used to develop new navigation systems.

By: Anuja Arora