„Magnetovision‟: how animals u
se magnetic fields to navigate
‘Magnetovision’: how animals use magnetic fields to navigate.
Since the potential of birds to detect the electromagnetic fields of the Earth for navigation was proposedin the late 19
century, research in this field has revealed that animals from a diverse phylogeneticrange possess a magnetic compass that gauges directional information from the Earth
magnetic field.Less is known about the ability of animals to sense positional information, but evidence is accumulatingthat birds and some marine animals have this capability, while others are able to use local magneticanomalies as guides. Whilst the potential for human capabilities in sensing the magnetic fields is oftendisregarded, new research has led to the discovery of the expression of cryptochrome human CRY2 inthe human retina, which has the potential t
o act as a „light
sensitive magnetosensor‟ in the human eye.
Therefore, further research on the magnetic sensing ability of humans and other mammals should beundertaken to help augment this work.Further research on the potential impact of local electromagnetic fields, produced by offshore windfarm cables, have on the behaviour of animals that use magnetic fields as navigational guides (such asthe sharks, cetaceans, and sea turtles) is also urgently required. This is particularly important from anIrish perspective, given that Irish marine waters are classified as a whale and dolphin sanctuary, and arevisited by basking sharks and leatherback turtles.With the wealth of information on this topic, this review looks at the elements of the Earth
field utilised by navigating animals, and then focuses on the processes of how specialist migrators, suchas the migratory birds, elasmobranchs, turtles and lobsters, use these elements to navigate on incredible journeys. In particular, the ability of migratory birds to perceive diverse magnetic sources usingdifferent physiological processes is explained; followed by the sensitivity of sharks and the migratorystrategies used by navigating sea turtles and spiny lobsters. Finally, the worrying findings on magneticconnections to whale strandings and the work on other mammals, including humans, is discussed.