The ability to detect magnetic fields – a fascinating biological phenomenon

iScience – Myths in magnetosensation
Published: May 23, 2022
By: Simon Nimpf, David A. Keays


The ability to detect magnetic fields is a sensory modality that is used by many animals to navigate. While first postulated in the 1800s, for decades, it was considered a biological myth. A series of elegant behavioral experiments in the 1960s and 1970s showed conclusively that the sense is real; however, the underlying mechanism(s) remained unresolved. Consequently, this has given rise to a series of beliefs that are critically analyzed in this manuscript. We address six assertions:

  1. Magnetoreception does not exist;
  2. It has to be magnetite;
  3. Birds have a conserved six loci magnetic sense system in their upper beak;
  4. It has to be cryptochrome;
  5. MagR is a protein biocompass; and
  6. The electromagnetic induction hypothesis is dead.

In advancing counter-arguments for these beliefs, we hope to stimulate debate, new ideas, and the design of well-controlled experiments that can aid our understanding of this fascinating biological phenomenon.



Chapter 6, in EMF links

1.  1988 / Magnetic Orientation in Birds
Part of the Current Ornithology book series (CUOR, volume 5)
Wolfgang Wiltschko, Roswitha Wiltschko
Published: 1988

6. 2009 / A Possible Effect of Electromagnetic Radiation from Mobile Phone Base Stations on the Number of Breeding House Sparrows (Passer domesticus)
Joris Everaert, Dirk Bauwens
Published: 7 July 2009

8. 2009 / Understanding how birds navigate
Cryptochrome and Magnetic Sensing **and**
Authors: Ilia Solov’yov, Klaus Schulten

12. 2018 / We Finally Know How Birds Can See Earth’s Magnetic Field
By: Trevor Nace
Published: April 4, 2018

13. 2018 / Birds Can See Earth’s Magnetic Fields, And Now We Know How That’s Possible
Author: Michelle Star
Published: 1 September 2018

14. 2019 / Humans—like other animals—may sense Earth’s magnetic field
By Kelly Servick
Published: March 18, 2019

About Multerland

Multerland is a blog about care for nature, natural health, holistic medicine, holistic therapies, deep ecology, sustainability, climate change, life processes, psychology, spirituality, and awareness. Since 2017 only articles about the hidden dangers of wireless and cell phone radiation have been published. Since April 2023 a new branch has been added: "Sustainable Politics". URL:
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