Birds have GPS inbuilt into their brains. They can turn it on and off like a switch.

Earth’s magnetic field is known to protect the planet and its inhabitants from the dangerous cosmic rays and plasma emitted by the Sun. But this magnetic field is creatively used by some animals for navigation like GPS, and they can turn it on and off very flexibly.

A new study has now revealed that migratory birds have the ability to process or ignore magnetic information, just as we can play music when we’re interested or turn it off when we don’t. as a simple press on the switch.

Researchers from the University of Western Ontario in Canada and Bowling Green State University in the United States have discovered a brain region known as the N cluster that birds use to sense and process the earth’s magnetic field.

Image by Pexels from Pixabay

Research published in the European Journal of Neuroscience indicates that cluster N was only activated when the birds were motivated to migrate and presumably used their magnetic compass. Previous studies have revealed that birds have the ability to use magnetically reactive proteins called cryptochromes located in their retinas to activate sensing and signaling functions, helping them navigate what’s going on. this long distance.

Led by a PhD in Psychology. candidate Madeleine Brodbeck, the team studied white-throated finches and found that they were able to turn on the N group at night when motivated to migrate and turn it off when resting during the day.

“This brain region is extremely important for activating the geomagnetic compass, especially for songbirds that migrate at night. Almost all previous studies on this specific brain function have been supported by this particular brain function.” done in a lab in Europe, so it would be nice to breed it in a North American bird like the white-throated sparrow.”

The magnetic field, created by the flow of molten iron in the planet’s inner core and propagated into space, is invisible to humans. But some animals have this mechanism in their brains that helps them find it when traveling long distances. “If we want to understand bird migration or how other animals move from one place to another, we need to know how they do it. And more importantly, we need to know what these animals do. what we do, as humans, who can influence them,” MacDougall-Shackleton said.

Scientists believe that birds not only use magnetic fields normally, but also notice the Sun and stars as signals.

MacDougall-Shackleton added: “This kind of fundamental research is informative and allows us to fully understand the ways in which animals experience the world as they migrate and what we humans need to do to mitigate it. our impact”. 

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