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Many birds have a compass in their eyes. Their retinas are loaded with a protein called cryptochrome, which is sensitive to the Earth’s magnetic fields. It’s possible that the birds can literally see these fields, overlaid on top of their normal vision. This remarkable sense allows them to keep their bearings when no other landmarks are visible.

But cryptochrome isn’t unique to birds – it’s an ancient protein with versions in all branches of life. In most cases, these proteins control daily rhythms. Humans, for example, have two cryptochromes – CRY1 and CRY2 – which help to control our body clocks. But Lauren Foley from the University of Massachusetts Medical School has found that CRY2 can double as a magnetic sensor.

Foley worked with Drosophila flies, which can normally sense magnetic fields using cryptochome. You can show this by placing them in an artificial magnetic field and training them to head in a specific direction in search for food. Normal flies can do this easily. Mutants that don’t have the cry gene, which makes the cryptochrome protein, lose their ability to find their meal.

Sometimes I think I can detect them. But that just might be some kind of mental disorder.#-) To read the rest of the article, click here.
Category: Science