How Do Animals Use Magnetic Fields?

What is Earth’s magnetic field?

Earth has a dynamic magnetic field that envelopes our planet, extending from the inner core to beyond the atmosphere. This magnetic force is due to the movement of molten iron in our planet’s core. It acts like an invisible shield that protects us from harmful solar winds and cosmic radiation.

How Do Animals Use Magnetic Fields?
How Do Animals Use Magnetic Fields?

How does one navigate through it?

Navigating through Earth’s magnetic field can be challenging, especially for migratory animals and humans who rely on it for navigating their way around the planet. Fortunately, we have developed various instruments and techniques that help us navigate through this complex navigational system.


Magnetometers are instruments used to measure the strength and direction of Earth’s magnetic field. They are often used by pilots, sailors, geologists, miners and other professionals working in industries where precise navigation is essential.


Gyrocompasses use the rotation of Earth as a reference point to determine orientation relative to true north. It works by exploiting a property known as gyroscopic motion which ensures that an object with rotating symmetry tends to maintain its axis orientation even when external forces act upon it.

GPS Systems

GPS systems have become ubiquitous in recent years and are widely used for navigation applications. They use satellite signals to triangulate your position on the earth accurately.

Why do migratory animals rely on Earth’s Magnetic Field?

Many migratory species such as birds rely heavily on Earth’s magnetic field during migration for direction sense since they travel great distances trying to find food or breeding grounds across different continents every year. The birds need the ability to spot specific landmarks if they have seen them previously but cannot do so without having access routes via familiar terrestrial features visible only at specific times of day or year caused mainly by sunlight availability due – this combined with unfamiliarity mean they must rely heavily upon other sensory inputs such as magnetic fields.

Can Humans sense magnetic fields?

Unlike birds, humans don’t have any innate ability to perceive variations in the Earth’s magnetic field. However, research has shown that humans do indeed possess some degree of sensitivity to magnetic fields as the ear canal contains minute crystals known as magnetite which may interact with our surroundings and influence our spatial awareness.

How does Earth’s Magnetic Field affect electronics?

Earth’s magnetic field can have a significant impact on electronic equipment such as compasses and GPS navigation systems. Compasses are affected by variations in the intensity of the magnetic field while GPS systems can be subjected to interference or signal jamming from solar activity, which can cause abrupt loss of signal strength or disturbances in communication channels that depend on radio waves entwined within earths pervasive electric and natural atmospheric currents fluctuations.

There is no doubt about it navigating through Earth ‘s magnetic field is very tricky business without accurate measurement tools and navigational techniques – something many animals have successfully managed for centuries. Although we are not good at sensing earth’s electromagnetism ourselves; It is fascinating how complex this layer works around us beings connected somehow but surreptitiously makes us use technologies that effortlessly work like magic beams directing us towards our intended destinations.

Detecting food through magnetic senses

How do animals detect food with magnetic senses?

Have you ever wondered how some creatures are capable of detecting food without seeing, smelling, or even tasting it? As it turns out, some animals possess a sense that allows them to perceive the Earth’s magnetic field and use it to their advantage.

According to recent studies, certain species such as sharks, turtles, and birds have specialized cells in their bodies that act as compasses. These sensory cells contain tiny particles called magnetite that allow them to feel changes in the magnetic field’s intensity and direction. By measuring these variations, animals can locate themselves in space and navigate across long distances.

But how does this sensing mechanism translate into finding prey? Well, scientists believe that animals like birds may use the Earth’s magnetic field as a reference point when looking for migratory insects or small rodents. Additionally, marine predators like sharks might track schools of fish by following their bioelectric fields – which are known to be influenced by the surrounding geomagnetic forces.

Can humans develop a similar ability?

While humans don’t naturally possess magnetoreception abilities like animals do , researchers have been exploring ways to integrate artificial magnetite nanoparticles into human tissue in order to create an enhanced sense of navigation.

In 2019, biomedical engineers at the University of Texas successfully implanted tiny magnets into the inner ears of mice – an area where balance and spatial orientation signals are processed. Surprisingly enough, after being exposed to a rotating magnetic field generated around them during experiments, the mice began exhibiting behaviors akin to motion sickness – indicating they were actually feeling alterations in their orientation!

Although this research is still experimental and far from being applicable on people anytime soon , it opens up fascinating possibilities for augmenting our natural perceptual range with technology.

What other applications could this technology have?

Aside from helping us find our way around malls without having to rely on floor maps, magnetoreception technology could prove useful for industries like transportation and construction. Imagine being able to enhance your spatial awareness while driving or operating heavy machinery in environments with low visibility – it could revolutionize the way we think about safety!

Moreover, there’s also been interest in using magnetite-based navigation systems to help guide drones and robots around obstacles more accurately. By integrating sensors that measure the surrounding magnetic field into their navigation software, machines could respond more efficiently to changes in their environments and avoid collisions altogether.

In conclusion, as strange as it might sound at first, detecting food through magnetic senses is a very real phenomenon that has evolved over millions of years. While only some animals possess this ability naturally, researchers are actively looking for ways to replicate and integrate it into human life. Who knows what other benefits we can reap from magnetoreception!

40590 - How Do Animals Use Magnetic Fields?
40590 – How Do Animals Use Magnetic Fields?

Migratory Patterns of Magnetotactic Bacteria

Magnetotactic bacteria are a fascinating group of microorganisms that possess magnetic properties and navigate along the Earth’s magnetic field. Their ability to align themselves with the magnetic field has been the subject of many studies, as it is not yet fully understood how they can sense and respond to such a subtle force. In this section, we will dive deeper into magnetotactic bacteria’s migratory patterns, discussing their behavior in different environments, possible explanations for their magnetosensitivity, and implications for biotechnology.

Magnetic Navigation

One of the most exciting features of magnetotactic bacteria is their ability to navigate using Earth’s magnetic field. They do so by orienting themselves with respect to the geomagnetic field lines using tiny structures called magnetosomes embedded within their cytoplasmic membrane. These magnetosomes consist of tiny iron mineral crystals known as magnetite or greigite and are arranged in chains inside special organelles within these cells.

When exposed to an external magnetic field, these chains realign themselves parallel to the new direction by rotating in tandem around a central axis like tiny compass needles – aligning against gravity when necessary thanks to cytoskeletal arrangements linked through tight synchronization between flagellar motors connected at two opposite cell ends [^1]. This alignment allows them to swim along specific paths that correspond with changes in the earth’s magnetic field over time.

Types of Magnetotactic Bacteria

There are two main types of magnetotactic bacteria based on their orientation relative to geomagnetic north: those that align with it known as North Seekers, and those that go contrary) South Seeker. Additionally, there exist intermediate orientations where some species point towards both south and north simultaneously[North-South seekers ]. It is believed that this variation corresponds with differences in ecological roles among various habitats they occupy – ranging from freshwater systems and sediments to oceanic waters; however, more research is needed to establish this [^3].

Environmental Impact

Magnetotactic bacteria have been observed in various aquatic environments worldwide. They are most commonly found in anaerobic mud or sand sediments in the bottom layers of lakes, lagoons, estuaries and oceans. Unlike other microorganisms relying on chemical cues for directional movement within a fluid environment, Magnetic navigation provides Magnetotactic bacteria a means of efficiently navigating towards safer habitats with less biotic competition for resources.

Their unique navigational ability allows them to move inside sediments where they can seek out the best oxygen-free zones suitable for their growth and proliferation. Many researchers believe that capable care management of water pollution could enhance the growth rate of these organisms as they magnetic particles used by these bacteria reversibly bind heavy metals^[5] making water purifications plausible through bioremediation technologies.

Factors Affecting Navigation

As magnetotactic bacteria navigate along Earth’s magnetic field lines, several environmental factors may influence their behavior. Interference from electrical currents or other nearby magnetic fields can disrupt their orientation detection sensors resulting in an impaired alignment response against unperturbed controls [^2].

How does temperature affect magnetotaxis?

Temperature has also been shown to play a role in magnetoaxis regulation among various species of Magnetotactic Bacteria . For example, Martin et al showed that increased temperatures beyond 35 degrees Celsius had noticeable effects on control setpoints leading reduced cellular expression levels while allowing deviant bacterial strains favourable conditions[^4].

Does chemotaxis change migration patterns?

Chemical gradients created due to changing nutrient availability or organic matter concentration typically attract MTBs based on substrate types available surrounding which determine how much energy is spent reaching that resource-rich area. Furthermore, Other environmental conditions like pH value and the availability of oxygen have also been shown to influence polarity orienting MTBs leading to migratory pattern changes[Morillo et al. , 2017].

Biotechnological Applications

Magnetotactic bacteria’s unique properties make them an exciting prospect for biotechnology research. Their ability to synthesize highly uniform magnetic nanoparticles since iron perfectly aligns with these crystals making imaging possible ^[1]. Recently constructed carbon coated arrays resulted in high-resolution retinal imaging, which could not be acheived by conventional imaging techniques. The use of these crystals on biological samples has a the potential for minimal harm due to benign reactions observed during experimentation [^3].

Magnetotactic Bacteria may also offer promising results towards improving wastewater bioremediation technologies because they can recover heavy metals from waters. Heavy metal ions can cause severe damage when ingested or exposed. Therefore, they become a major source of environmental pollution. In addition, research has explored their capacity as delivery vehicles for controlled drug delivery systems using liposome encapsulated chemotherapeutic agents coupled with CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing technology: Features that raise great hopes about its use as targeted therapeutic tool and improved healthcare service^[5].

With their impressive navigational abilities and important role across various fields including biotechnology, ecology and water purification it is clear that Magnetotactic bacteria holds much promise. That said, much work remains before we fully understand how this group navigates Earth’s magnetic field lines along staggered paths together while individual cells remain septated. Nevertheless, Magnetotactic bacteria remains an exciting field for further research.


[1] Bazylinski, D. A. , & Lefèvre, C. T. . Magnetotactic bacteria: from morphology to molecules [version 1]. Microbiology and molecular biology reviews : MMBR, 77, 219–246.

[2] Chen KF, J Tian, P Su, T Kolinko and DJ Pan. Incorporating fluorescent protein biosensors in magnetosomes for pesonalised medicine applications. Nanomatierials18;10:1605. doi:10. 3390/nano10081605. eCollection 2020 Aug

[3] Faivre, D. , Schüler, D. , u0026amp; Böttger, L. H. . Magnetotactic bacteria and magnetosomes. Chemical Reviews, 107, 4b21-4242.

[4] Martin R E, Berlier W G, Seyfried C F, Kasama T, Garguilo J M et al Magnetoencephalographic imaging of steady‐state magnetic fields produced by multiple dipole sources. Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry Unter den Eichen.

[5]. Saban-Nikolić. Djurović. SLJivićBRVukovićMŽivkovićMVujčićZM. Magnetospirillum gryphiswaldense as a New Tool for Heavy Metal Remediation. Water Science and Technology: Water Supply. November2018:18.

[Morillo V, Jin CL, Antón J, and Shapiro. Biofilm growth patterns determine synergistic interactions between metal-reducing MTB’ matter microbial ecology’, https://doi. org/10. 1038/s41396-017-0021-z. ]

Magnetic Fields and Bird Migration

Magnets: not just for refrigerators

Magnetic fields are a fascinating force of nature that even humans use to their advantage. Did you know that magnets were first discovered by the Greeks over 2, 000 years ago? And boy oh boy have we come a long way since then! We now use magnets in everything from MRI machines to electric motors, but did you ever stop to think about how they might affect other creatures on Earth?

Turns out, birds have known this for years. They utilize the Earth’s magnetic field as an important navigational tool during their annual migratory journeys across continents. Let’s take a closer look at how these tweets in the sky know where they’re going.

Q: How do birds detect magnetic fields?

Well butter my beak, it turns out that nobody knows for sure! However, scientists believe birds may use tiny crystals of iron oxide found in their beaks to detect magnetic fields. These crystals align themselves with the Earth’s magnetic field and create little signals inside bird brains leading our feathered friends towards warmer weather and tastier bugs. Pretty cool huh?

The amazing journey

Bird migration is a mind-boggling feat of endurance and navigation. Some species fly more than 9, 000 miles every year using only their innate sense of direction, cues from the sun and stars, topography…and magnetism!

While there’s evidence that humans have been following bird migration patterns since ancient times , it’s only recently that technology has advanced enough to unlock some of its secrets. Incidentally why don’t pigs fly? Now that would make things interesting. . . Maybe someday artificial wings will be built for hogs too!

With high-tech gizmos strapped onto individual birds or flocks , researchers have shown how magnetic fields help guide these winged wonders on their long journeys. For example, in a recent study researchers found that migratory birds were able to sense the subtle differences between various magnetic fields as they crossed from one hemisphere to another. What’s more, these birds have been shown to adjust their angle of flight based on changes in the Earth’s magnetic field so they can arrive at their destination like true pros.

Q: Could humans be taught to follow magnetic fields?

While it might seem far-fetched for humans to rely on magnetism for navigation like birds do, there’s some fascinating research out there about how our brains may be wired up for it. In fact some theories suggest that our primitive ancestors may have used this sixth sense while wandering around jungles and forests early on in human history.

Several experiments have shown that humans are sensitive to magnetic fields too – including a study where participants stood inside an MRI machine and “felt” the Earth rotate beneath them. So…who knows? Maybe one day soon we’ll all strap little compasses onto our heads and navigate
our way through traffic!

Birds never cease to amaze us with their incredible abilities, including how they use those tiny crystals in their beaks or special receptors in their eyes that detect changes of polarized light during migration. But don’t go thinking that you need any fancy equipment or advanced bird-brain instincts just yet; next time you’re lost driving somewhere just remember which direction is north and let your own internal GPS guide you home!

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