The mystery behind how birds navigate might finally be solved

It's not the iron in their beaks providing a magnetic compass, but a newly discovered protein in their eyes that lets them "see" Earth's magnetic fields

These findings come courtesy of two new papers - one studying robins, the other zebra finches.  

The zebra finch study was published in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface, and the robin study was published in Current Biology.

bird vision

This is how a bird might see magnetic fields. (Theoretical and Computational Biophysics/UofI)

So what does a bird actually see? Well, we can't ever know what the world looks like through another species' eyes, but we can take a very strong guess.

According to researchers at the Theoretical and Computational Biophysics group at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, whose researcher Klaus Schulten first predicted magnetoreceptive cryptochromes in 1978, they could provide a magnetic field "filter" over the bird's field of view - like in the picture above.



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