Understanding how birds navigate has fascinated scientists for generations. We finally cracked that odd egg. Its turn out that they have Quantum Compass in their eyes. Like they have sixth-sense kind of thing, but its all can be explained by science.
Half of all bird species migrate to find food as the season turns cold. The exact pathway and location change between species, but they all follow a more or less North-South pattern. That’s incredible and it is even true for those that hunt on land. Birds will take the most direct route even that means flying over Big bodies of Water to conserve energy.
But how do these birds know where to go! They don’t know how to follow roads or to turn at any landmark. Also, they are a bird, how a bird even know what’s a landmark is! They are birds not human. But Birds do have one advantage a built-in compass.
New evidence from two separate studies, one looking at Zebra Finches and the other one European Robins, found that some migrating birds have proteins in their eyes that gives them a sort of ” Sixth Sense”. It allows them to detect the Earth’s magnetic field. That’s pretty amazing, right?
In both species, the researchers studied the proteins Cry1, Cry2 and Cry4. These three proteins are called Cryptochromes that are associated with their bodies’ internal Circadian Clock. They found that Cry1 and Cry2 levels rise and fall in regular circles during the day. But the level of Cry4 is constant. The simplest explanation is that birds need to produce this protein all the time for some reason. So they look more closely at Cry4.
This protein Cry4 is a peculiar one. It is clustered in a part of the bird’s retina, which is very sensitive to blue light. This protein is made from a kind of molecule that some time has an odd number of electrons. The scientists theorize, that as incoming light enters the eye, a photon hits the Cryptochrome proteins and that excites the electron on it. That energy is then transferred between two molecules within the protein yielding two free electrons that are Quantum entangled and therefore, correlated. Scientists theorize the electron’s spin form a coherent Quantum state reacts to a weak external magnetic field, for example, the Earth’s magnetic field.
Basically, if they are right, these two electrons are reacting to the birds fly through the Earth’s magnetic field. As the bird turns or moves, the electrons spin differently, causing different messages to be sent to the bird’s brain. The chemical signals that are sent to the bird’s brain, allow it to detect the magnetic field within 5-degree accuracy. Theoretically, if they are right.
The Cry4 protein essentially acts like a magnetic compass. Birds always get enough blue light that hit the retina to trigger the electrons’ spin to release that chemical any time of a day. Which is insane if you think about it. Because when we humans study Quantum particles it requires supper cooling atoms in a lab environment and not to forget those complex huge machinery. But the inside of a birds eye is warm yet chaotic. So How the heck does they work out Quantum entanglement?
We really don’t know. We also don’t know how the chemical signal part of the compass sends messages to the brain or how the birds perceive the magnetic field. We need a bird’s eye view, to feel this final piece of the puzzle. More research is obviously needed.