Tag Archives: birds

From Russia Today: ‘Pigeon-Nav’ Linked to Built-In Magnetic Compass Humans Also Have

Good morning from the chilly but sunny county of Surrey.

Russia Today is one of my favourite websites.  Yes, it is a news site but it is a must-read One-Stop Shop – one that covers a cornucopia of fascinating topics.  Astronomy articles, in particular, provide joyous moments of reading over a mid-morning cup of coffee.

This article covers the findings of recent studies about the navigational abilities of pigeons – an ability which humans also possess.

This reminds me of conversations with my Sister, during which she covered this very topic (e.g., ‘humans still have the ability to navigate by magnetics alone because of the magnetite content in the brain’).  Are the magnetic proteins mentioned actually magnetite…?

The first paragraphs of the article are:

A new study published in the journal Nature Materials has discovered magnetic proteins in the eyes of animals that, together with sunlight, act as a compass in the Earth’s magnetic field. Even more fascinating is that researchers have discovered the same proteins also exist in human eyes.

The proteins, which run from the retina nerve in the eye to the brain, form rod-shaped complexes that orientate in a north to south direction in a magnetic field – just like a built-in compass.

Pigeons are known to be exceptional navigators, covering enormous distances to reach their exact desired location. But according to the study, they are not the only ones producing these magnetic proteins: fruit flies, monarch butterflies, minke whales, and naked mole-rats all seem to have what it takes to navigate using a magnetic field. That’s not to mention humans – although we seem to have the proteins in lesser quantities. 

The final paragraph is fascinating:

“When it comes to humans, he believes that “the existence of a human magnetic sense is controversial, but geomagnetic fields are thought to affect the light sensitivity of the human visual system.”

My own view…?  A human body is a fine example of electromagnetic interactions and communications, housed within a fabulous casement comprised mainly of water.  For anyone who doubts that the human body is amazing – think about that for a few moments 🙂

The link to the full article is detailed below: