A Chinese study has discovered that a certain protein called MagR acts like an animal GPS. Certain animals in the animal kingdom have the ability to sense and use magnetic fields, like monarch butterflies, salmon, lobsters, bats, mole rats, and marine nudibranch mollusks. The study screened the Drosophila gene for a protein that can act as a magnetic sensor, and they found it.
An Animal GPS That Directs Them Where to Go and When
Magnetosensing has been explained through different theories with time. One of them involves cryptochromes, light-sensing proteins that birds use to navigate using the Earth’s magnetic field. However, this protein cannot detect polarity. So the scientific community has been in search of the protein that acts as a compass for animals.
This Light-Dependent GPS Works as An Animal Compass
Researchers assumed that the protein might be bound to iron, which does detect polarity, and they screened the Drosophila genome to find a protein bound to iron, in the head and found within the cell and not in the membrane. Nine proteins were highlighted in this screen, and out of these, only one was bound to the Drosophila cryptochrome: the magnetoreceptor MagR.
MagR Are Found in All Animals
The genes for MagR are in all animal species and its made up of a linear core of iron MagR proteins with a sheath of Cry proteins. This acts as a light-dependent GPS to all diurnal animal species.