Study: birds can sense earth's magnetic fields thanks to a fancy eye protein

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Now researchers are narrowing down a specific eye protein called Cry4

Get it? Science pun!


This is super awesome. Can I take this to mean that the information about the magnetic field is processed through the part of the brain that processes vision? And is it fair to say that they, therefore, in all likelihood see the magnetic field?


I’d like to think that Nikola Tesla possessed or intuited this ability in birds, hence his passion for pigeons.

also this:


This is what I was excited about, too.
For some reason, I always assumed that birds’ magnetoreception was something they felt in their bodies, like e.g. heat.
That they are able to follow it with their eyes, as if it were some sort of augmented reality app except native, is surprising.


Well, to be fair, any form of sight is your brain running an augmented reality app. I mean, reality is goddamned chaos.


Parts of the uv spectrum and the infrared, now magnetic waves, birds are piling up the visual superpowers.

Now i need to figure out how to test this out on the avians at home…

Turns out birds have long had something that humans could only crudely implement in hardware…

The light-dependent magnetic compass of birds provides orientation information about the spatial alignment of the geomagnetic field. It is proposed to be located in the avian retina, and be mediated by a light-induced, biochemical radical-pair mechanism involving cryptochromes as putative receptor molecules.

Of course. Even two year olds know that! Sheesh!

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The researchers appear reluctant to call this “seeing,” as it could take a number of forms:

• Visual distortions like seeing heat waves
• Pressure in the eyes similar to sudden shifts from light or dark to the opposite
• Balance sensations similar to the inner ear mechanisms.

It’s cool to imagine that they can actually see magnetic patterns overlaid on things, but it’s hard to know what a bird subjectively experiences at this time.


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