Magnetoreception: The Magnetic Sense of Animals (and humans)


October 1, 2019


Bees & whales do it. Sea turtles and birds do it too. They, amongst many others, use Earth’s magnetic field for orientation & migration. It’s the natural ‘compass’ that shows them exactly how to find their way in life. Humans don’t share that same magnetic sense. Or do they? Only a few months ago researchers from the California Institute of Technology discovered notable evidence claiming the opposite. According to their investigation, both men and women’s brains respond to rotations of Earth-strength magnetic fields. Meaning we can, just like many animals, navigate without using a compass. Isn’t that super duper interesting yet extremely disturbing, now with the 5G entering our lives?

Follow the waves

Now, before we jump all the way into the main research, let’s refresh our basic knowledge. We all know the story of whales who migrate to warmer waters to mate. This phenomenon happens for many other species. Birds, for that reason can easily find their way back after a few months of vacationing abroad. Atticus Pinzón-Rodríguez & Steffan Bensch from the Lund University in Sweden, studied the internal magnetic sense of birds. According to their expertise migratory birds orient themselves using blue-to-ultraviolet light. This stimulates a protein called cryptochrome or Cry 4 which is present in their retina. Chickens don’t have the same strong abilities, because they simply don’t need it in a day to day life. In case you want to go in depth on the details, check out this video.

Human nature of ancestral legacy?

Next up: Homo sapiens. Numerous scientists have turned our brains inside out to trace this ‘mysterious’ magnetic sensory system within the human body. As per research done by the California Institute of Technology our brains definitely respond to magnetic fields. As a result we collect and process directional input from magnetic field receptors. This means we could have inherited the built in compass from our hunter-gatherer ancestors. Dr Joe Kirschvink conducted his results as follows. He recorded the brain activity of over 30 volunteers. All were exposed to moving Earth-strength magnetic fields while sitting in a cage. Interfering electromagnetic fields could be blocked out and the electric current was run through coils, a very clever way to mimic the Earth’s magnetic field.

Black out

Seems like we might have developed a blindness to the mysterious magnetic force, but we do use a similar wave to control our everyday devises. Nearly every electrical devise we own, operates on electromagnetism. Which is pretty convenient to us at a first glance but on the other hand it can be quite harmful. We turn off our devises on board of the aircraft, to eliminate radio waves that pose a risk to avionics technology. A similar, less known risk occurs off board. Considering their life-or-death ability to navigate, most animals depends on correctly interpreting the earth’s magnetic field. Our use of electronics can disturb their path.

Especially bees and butterflies are sensitive to the so called electro smog. According to Dr. Marie-Claire Cammaerts, from the University in Brussels, bees avoid wireless apparatus. The hypothesis needs further investigation, but high intensity to manmade electromagnetism could potentially be the reason behind the decline of domestic bees all over the world.

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