One of the most unusual senses that some animals have is magnetoreception, i.e. the ability to pick up the magnetic fields of our planet and navigate by them similar to a compass. But what is it and which animals have it?
What is magnetoreception?
Magnetoreception is the innate ability to perceive changes in the Earth's magnetic fields caused by the movement of the iron-rich liquid core, located at the center of our planet.
Magnetic fields pass through our planet's atmosphere and extend for thousands of miles. Some living creatures, such as birds, turtles, fish, and even insects, have learned to sense the effects of the magnetic field and use it to navigate in space.
Which animals are susceptible to magnetic fields?
To a greater or lesser degree, all animals are magnetoreceptive. For example, they can sense approaching natural disasters such as earthquakes, floods, and volcanic eruptions. But different species are affected by magnetic fields in very different and sometimes very unusual ways.
Studies have found that magnetoreception is what helps cats to return home. When cats find themselves in an unfamiliar area, where they are able to correctly navigate and choose the right direction to their home.
Magnetoreception helps dogs find shortcuts and navigate the terrain. Studies have shown that most dogs in unfamiliar areas move strictly north if they don't have a specific destination. It is also known that dogs often navigate along the north-south axis of the Earth's magnetic field when defecating.
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Birds have a highly developed ability to sense the magnetic field. This allows them to navigate the terrain and identify the right direction on their way to their seasonal migration site. Therefore, birds always head straight south and do not stray from their route.
One of the brightest examples of innate orientation with the help of magnetic fields are turtles. For example, newborn baby turtles use magnetoreception to find their way to the shore.
If nothing disturbs the cows, they all line up in the direction of the magnetic pole. An interesting observation is that cows are noticed to leave their pies along the magnetic field line.
Wild animals are highly sensitive to magnetic fields. Reindeer navigate along the magnetic lines when covering long distances. When natural disasters approach, these animals may behave strangely. They either hide or start actively hunting for food.
Stingrays and other migratory fish species use the magnetic field to orient themselves in the water as they move. It has been observed that fish often become more active before a storm. They gather near the surface of a body of water and actively eat insects that fall into the water.
In Japan, eels kept in special aquariums help to predict the approaching tsunami and earthquakes. This is because fish are extremely sensitive to strong disturbances of the Earth's magnetic field, which accompany these cataclysms.
What about humans?
Scientists hypothesize that humans perceive changes in the magnetic field with the cells of the central nervous system, that is why some people feel worse and may get headaches before storms.
Can your pets predict weather?
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