Animals possess keen senses that are often more sensitive than our own – the sixth sense allows them to pick up on the subtle cues in their environment that may otherwise be imperceptible to us. Various species, from dogs and cats to birds and fish, are capable of perceiving their environment in ways that are still a mystery to us and their sixth sense helps them to survive.
The ability of species to traverse considerable distances has always intrigued the biological community. Many animals use the Earth’s magnetic field to move. But the ability to detect and react to MFs is not limited to migratory animals. The sixth sense of animals was studied in a large study. The article is in Nature.
This was done on fruit flies, led by researchers at the Universities of Manchester and Leicester. They analyzed a molecule present in all living cells. It is called Flavine Adenine Dinucleotide (FAD). It can impart magnetic sensitivity in a biological system. This would be present, to a greater or lesser extent, in all living things.
The hidden molecule
Richard Baines of the University of Manchester details. “How we perceive the external world is well understood. But which animals can sense and how they respond to a magnetic field is unknown. This study has made significant advances.”
The fruit fly contains a nervous system that functions like our own. It has been used in countless studies as a model for understanding human biology. Laboratory analysis enabled these findings. “We identified a basic molecule, present in all cells. It is FAD. It can, in high enough quantities, impart magnetic sensitivity.”
The findings provide a better understanding of the molecular machinery. The sixth sense of animals can be better studied. As well as environmental factors affecting animals that depend on a magnetic sense. For example, electromagnetic noise from telecommunications.
This provides clues to the evolutionary origins of magnetoreception. This ability may have evolved to use magnetic field effects more specifically.
“This study allows us to appreciate different risks. For example, the effects that magnetic field exposure could have on humans. FAD and other components of these molecular machines are found in many cells. This opens up new avenues of research into the use of magnetic fields to manipulate the activation of target genes. It is considered a holy grail as an experimental tool. And it could have clinical use in dozens of treatments for diseases and pathologies,” they conclude.