Bird Brain Landings

I’m excited to talk about birds. But not
just about birds, but a specific and critical aspect of bird behavior! this was done on a bunch of different water birds swans are in there and geese are in there but
the big players the mallards they’re rocks those Mallard
they fly through the air and then if they drop it it’ll end what so this is a
really really cool study about how birds land they have this automatic system for
landing and not running into each other they got a whole bunch of zoologists to
look through binoculars and watch water birds land and measure the angle at
which they landed they find out that the animals that the birds are not landing
at random directions they are landing on bodies of water either to the north or
to the south they don’t land east-west they don’t land north-northwest or
southeast they land north/south they live not geographical north-south they
land oriented toward magnetic north south that is correct they tend to let
go off of magnetic north a little bit but what’s really clear is that once
they’ve decided what is north they either land north or south so for
example it’s mallards they either land at 9 degrees east of North or 9 degrees
west of South so they landed at either 9 degrees or 189 degrees a swan species
landed at 3 degrees or 183 degrees they’re very spot on for this for this
axis they have some capacity for sensing magnetic north the favorite hypothesis
now is called radical pair based magnetic reception a molecule with an
extra electron a molecule missing an electron the spin of the unpair
electron can be influenced by the magnetic field so there have been both
calculations and measurements to suggest that that is true I think we could talk
to our buddy Nick about because this has to do with quantum entanglement well I
think would be great for you to bring Nick into this subject and I would
listen to that and learn something because I can tell you that the radical
pair base magnetic section field is a lot above my regardless that the current
idea is that you have electron donor and receiver and that and the favorite one
that everyone has Apophis sized is something called a cryptochrome and
cryptochromes are these photons sensitive molecules that are present in
a wide wide range of animals including the ever so exciting human they’re
present in in the retina and so the neurons that have them in the retina
will not only sense light but if they’re in the right orientation to magnetic
north they’ll get an extra juice this is not proven but it’s a is a darn
good hypothesis it’s a very attractive idea I’m oh Mallard I see the world I
have whatever visual acuity that I have but where magnetic north comes through
that axis from north to south or it hits my retina that little area is a little
brighter it’s a little juicier and now I realize which side is north I
come into land I keep my head Rocksteady and now that axis is hitting my retina
in one place even as my body comes underneath so that
I can put up big wings and stop air flow did you say that humans have them oh
yeah yeah where are they I want my I would look at mine I want to
check mine up make sure it’s okay they’re in the retina doing
cryptic things for you it’s actually been hypothesized that in fact we we
humans use our cryptochromes for magnetic detection there is a community
in a language where the concept of left and right is not present the concept is
north and south and east and west so you say the person standing to my northeast
is my mother and now we twirl around and my mother is now standing to my
southwest so that everything is relational to magnetic north there’s an
experiment done where people wore a belt for about two weeks and every time they
were facing magnetic north they would get a buzz walk felt they were being
calibrated if you will to magnetic north then after two weeks they take off the
belt and lo and behold people can continue to figure out which way they’re
facing this experiment that Thad had shared with me does suggest that in fact
given some calibration we can sense north from South if you watch water
birds you know there are a lot of mysteries how do they land without
running into each other and this takes us a long way to answering that question
we know that it is always useful to talk to the great one the professor’s
evacuation of the University of she that was fun that was very fun my Chicago
brain oh go mallards Go Go Go Mallard thank you for watching we hope you will
check out check out the brain buddies podcast on a podcast platform near you
and check out Chicago brain buddies also on YouTube as well as here on Facebook
as well as probably lots of other places that we don’t even know about there
people out there doing it so thank you much thank you very much Peggy hi