Researchers have found a protein that is responsible for the navigation ability of birds. The protein helps the birds in sensing the Earth's magnetic field for navigation.

Many bird species migrate to warmer lands during winter and also make their way back home after the cold season has ended. These birds fly for thousands of miles without the help of any navigation tools.

Peter Hore at the University of Oxford's Department of Chemistry, who is the lead researcher of the study, suggests that birds have an internal compass that helps them to navigate their journeys. However, it is not very clear how this internal compass works.

Hore explains that a possible answer is the presence of cryptochrome, a protein that is sensitive magnetically and responsible for facilitating circadian rhythms, driven by the circadian clock in animals as well as in plants. Green or blue light activates electrons in cryptochrome for the production of radicals in pairs whose electron rotations react to magnetic fields.

"As we vary the strength of the magnetic field, we can alter the progress of these photochemical reactions inside the protein," says Hore.

Previous studies have found that even slight magnetic field disruptions can impact avian navigation. The study involved keeping robins inside wooden huts at the University of Oldenburg's campus in Germany. The birds found it difficult to navigate without visual cues such as the position of the sun in the open sky.

Huts were then covered with aluminum sheets and grounded electrically, which blocked outward wavering electromagnetic noise. However, it did not block the stationary magnetic field of the Earth.

The researchers found that low-intensity voices such as signals from AM radio also blocked the birds' magnetic orientation capability. The researchers would like to find out how low-intensity noise disrupts the sensory function of other vertebrates.

Further studies will help scientists understand more about the internal magnetic compass of the birds or the process, which obstructs the orientation behavior of birds.

"Physicists are excited by the idea that quantum coherence could not just occur in a living cell, but could also have been optimized by evolution," says Hore.

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