Birds Use Internal Biological Quantum Compass to Sense Magnetic Fields

Sandhill Cranes and Full MoonFor decades, scientists have known that birds are excellent navigators because they have a special ability to detect variations in the earth’s magnetic field. Exactly how they detect the magnetic fields is still unclear. New research from the University of Oxford suggests that birds use an internal biological quantum compass. The researchers have been testing the sensitivity of the Eurasian Robin’s magnetic field sensor by observing how well the robins orient themselves when the strength of a magnetic field or electromagnetic interference is varied.

The results suggest that light-activated chemical reactions involving radical pairs in a bird’s retina are sensitive to the strength and direction of a magnetic field. A better understanding of the chemical compass that birds use to navigate could lead to applications in quantum computing, sensors, and detectors.

Source: Extreme TechUniversity of Oxford | Image by Patti Deters