Eye Compass?

21 June 2011 Last updated at 11:35 ET

Fruit fly scanning electron micrographThe cryptochrome protein comes in more than one type – and the human one can perform as the fly’s

A light-sensitive protein in the human eye has been shown to act as a “compass” in a magnetic field, when it is present in flies’ eyes.

The study in Nature Communications showed that without their natural “magnetoreception” protein, the flies did not respond to a magnetic field – but replacing the protein with the human version restored the ability.

Despite much controversy, no conclusive evidence exists that humans can sense the Earth’s magnetic field, and the find may revive interest in the idea.

Although humans, like migratory birds, are known to have cryptochrome in their eyes, the idea of human magnetoreception has remained largely unexplored since pioneering experiments by Robin Baker of the University of Manchester in the 1980s.

to read more, go to:   http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-13809144