Migratory animals may be more in tune with the Earth than once thought. Researchers have successfully isolated cells in trout's noses that are thought to help navigate through the Earth's magnetic field.
This ability known as magnetoreception is found in sharks and rays, salmon and trout, turtles, bats, ants and bees, and possibly cows, deer and foxes, Discover Magazine reported.
Stephan Eder, a researcher at the University of Munich’s department of earth and environmental sciences and the study’s lead author, told Business Week that his research group found the cells by exposing the snout tissue from trout to a rotating magnetic field, causing the tissue cells to spin, which helped identify the cells as magnetoreceptors.
Michael Winklhofer, a biogeophysicist at the University of Munich, explained to Australia's ABC News, just because they found the magnetic receptors, that doesn't mean they know how it all works. "There's no doubt that many animals have a magnetic sense, particularly migratory birds and fish. But the problem is, we still don't know how that works."
The group hopes to use this new discovery to one day cure blindness or hearing loss in humans. J David Dickman, a neuroscientist at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, told ABC, "we're contemplating taking cells that are not normally magnetically sensitive and creating cells that are magnetically sensitive. You could put them in the brain or body and turn them on or off with magnetic fields of certain wavelengths or frequencies to give balance or hearing back to the ear or smells back to the nose." Dickman added, "Nature has a lot more yet to teach us."
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