News Picks : Magnetic protein may be key to animal navigation
Ars Technica: A wide range of animals use Earth's magnetic fields to migrate every year, but the mechanism by which they detect those fields has been unclear. Now Chinese researchers have identified a protein in the Drosophila fruit-fly genome that binds to iron, which can detect polarity. Called the Drosophila magnetoreceptor protein, dMagR is found inside cells that have light-sensing proteins called cryptochromes, used by birds to identify magnetic field lines. The resulting complex is capable of detecting the polarity, intensity, and inclination of Earth's magnetic field and has an inherent magnetic moment. The researchers also found the same complex in humans as well as in other animals, such as pigeons and mole rats.