Magnetoreception By:Juan D.


Magnetoreception is complex on many levels: complex on how it is used, how to reaserch it, and in its far reaching implications.


Magnetoreception is a navigational and orientational tool used by many animals that help them locate themselves. This attribute enables them to detect Earth's magnetic field so that they can locate themselves.

What animals have it?

Not all animals have magnetoreception, and a very diverse set of animals have it. Some use it for long diststances, and some use it for very short distances.

  • Some Migratory birds (pidgeons)
  • Bacteria
  • Arthropods (Fruit fly, scorpions)
  • Molluscs (Sea Slug)
  • Many different types of vertebrates
  • Insects (bees, butterflies)

Although we don't believe humans have a magnetic sense, there is a protein in the eye that may serve that function.


The precise purpose of magnetoreception is unclear but scientists can infer it is used like a compass or a map.

What do animals use it for?

Animals use this ability to locate their home if they were lost, to enable orientation or navigation.

Magnetoreception operates differently depending on the animal. For example "birds gain a compass by sensing the field lines (over the earth) and their inclination". Other animals such as sea turtles literally map their environment using the various levels of magnetism in the rocks around them.


One of the main issues that scientists encouner when trying to identify if a species has magnetoreception, has to do with locating the sensory receptor. Since neural activity has to be monitored and the receptor can be as small as 1mm cube in size, it can be extremely difficult to locate the part of the brain that processes it.


even though its been studied for 40 years magnetoreception still remains a mystery and recent reaserch on humans might be very promising.



Created with images by PIX1861 - "compass map navigation"

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