Dolphins Sensitive To Magnetic Field: Study

Dolphins possess a magnetic sense. The brainy cetaceans behave differently when swimming near magnetized or unmagnetized objects. According to a study conducted by Dorothee Kremers and her colleagues at the Universite de Rennes in France, these marine animals are ‘magnetoreceptive.’ It means they perceive magnetic field.

Many other animals also boast of the magnetic sense

Many different animals such as pigeons, turtles, insects, rodents, deer, and bats also possess magnetoreception. Their magnetic sense is believed to play a key role in how they navigate based on the Earth’s magnetic field. Magnetic field could be a “very good cue to navigate,” Kremers told LiveScience. Some evidences suggest that offshore live strandings and migration routes of both whales and dolphins may be linked to the Earth’s magnetic field.

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In their experiment, researchers presented the dolphins with barrels containing a strongly magnetized block or an unmagnetized one. Both barrels were identical in form and density, and therefore indistinguishable based on echolocation. Dolphins often use echolocation to locate objects by bouncing sound waves off them. During the experiment, the animals were free to interact with one another or swim in and out of the pool where the barrels were installed.

All six dolphins monitored swam towards the barrel containing the magnetized block much faster than towards the barrel that contained the demagnetized block. Scientists video recorded the dolphins poking around the barrels. It provides evidence that dolphins have magnetoreception. Besides approaching the magnetized block faster, the animals didn’t interact with the two types of barrels any differently, scientists said.

But how dolphins perceive magnetic fields?

Kremers said their research showed that cetaceans have a magnetic sense. However, it’s still unclear how dolphins perceive magnetic fields. One possibility is that the animals may have small “ferromagnetic” particles like magnetite in their body cells. These particles may react with the magnetic stimuli and signal the nervous system.

Findings of the study appeared Monday in Springer’s journal Naturwissenschaften – The Science of Nature.