From the article:
Sea turtles, pigeons and honeybees are among the animals that have an incredibly useful skill we don’t possess – they can sense the Earth’s magnetic fields with their bodies. But perhaps our magnetovision is just latent – when a light-sensitive protein was transferred from humans to fruit flies, the insects adopted the protein for their own magnetovision.
Steven Reppert of the University of Massachusetts in Worcester and his colleagues study cryptochromes – light-sensitive proteins that regulate the circadian clocks of many creatures. Reppert knew that cryptochromes also help fruit flies and birds sense the Earth’s magnetic fields, and he wanted to see whether human cryptochromes could do the same thing. To find out Reppert replaced those found in fruit flies with a human version, hCRY2, which is found in the retina.
The mutant flies were trained to associate a sugar reward with a magnetic field. When given the option to fly down either a magnetised or non-magnetised arm of a maze they opted for the magnetised one. Flies genetically engineered to lack cryptochrome altogether were indifferent to the magnetic field in one arm and were evenly distributed down both arms of the maze.
This is pretty interesting but fruit flies aren’t humans so we’ll just have to wait and see if it’s going to work on us. It would probably be pretty handy skill to have, it would be harder to get lost if humans had magnetovision.