Dolphins may sense Earth's magnetism



Birds do it. Bees do it. Now, maybe, dolphins do it, too. In a paper presented at the AGU Spring Meeting in Toronto, Mike Fuller of the University of California, Santa Barbara, announced that he and co-workers J. Dunn, also of UCSB, and John Zoeger, of Los Angeles Harbor College, had found magnetic material in the heads of dolphins. The finding opens the possibility that dolphins will join the growing list of animals that react to the earth's magnetic field, a list that includes pigeons, honeybees, and bacteria.

The researchers dissected the heads of five dolphins, which were supplied by the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History through a program in which animals that have died of natural causes are turned over to researchers. Tiny amounts of magnetic material were found in all but one of the dolphins; that one was too badly decomposed to dissect successfully, Fuller said.