While birds may appear to flutter about in the world, magically finding their way to food and other members of the flock, the reality is, many species migrate to the same destination, time and again. Over the years, researchers have established that the animals use Earth’s magnetic fields as guides. However, how they sense these fields has been a mystery.
One theory suggested specific molecules in the birds’ eyes were receptive to magnetism, while another claimed it was the iron-rich cells on their beaks that helped with the complex navigation task. Now, two studies – one focused on zebra finches and the other on European robins — assert that the animal’s “sixth sense” for magnetic fields may indeed be due to a special light-sensitive protein called Cry4 found in their eyes.
A 14-year-old with a vocabulary comprising four or five rudimentary words may not sound impressive. However, it sure is when the speaker happens to be an orca, or killer, whale! The amazing discovery, along with the recording of the vocalization, was unveiled in a January 31 study published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
The research team, led by José Zamorano-Abramson, a postdoctoral researcher at the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile, began recording the 14-year mammal, who resides at Marineland in Antibes, France, in 2014. The experiment was conducted to test the theory that killer whales learn sounds from social settings. Wikie, who has spent most of her life at the aquatic park, is accustomed to mimicking her trainer’s actions in exchange for fish, and was, therefore, the perfect candidate for the job.
If you were among the millions of people that watched NBC’s replay of the opening ceremony of the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea on Friday, February 9, you might have seen an airborne snowboarder, a bird flapping its wings, and the iconic Olympic Rings, light up the skies. While they may have appeared to be digital fireworks, the mesmerizing show was the result of thousands of tiny drones preprogrammed to follow complicated flight paths to form the shape-shifting images.