Magnetic reception (biology)
Keeton, William T. Section of Neurobiology and Behavior, Langmuir Laboratory, Division of Biological Sciences, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York.
Last reviewed:August 2020
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Sensitivity to magnetic stimuli. For more than a century, biologists have speculated whether any living organism can detect magnetic stimuli, especially the very weak ones occurring naturally in the environment (the intensity of the Earth's magnetic field, the geomagnetic field, is roughly 0.5 gauss). A great variety of biological effects resulting from exposure to fields many thousands of times more intense than Earth's have been reported. Among these are changes in plant growth rates, retardation of embryo development, changes in enzyme activity, alterations of tumor growth, and other indications of stress. While the evidence for some of the reported effects is not very convincing, it does seem likely that, under certain conditions, such intense fields can indeed produce stress effects in living tissues similar to the effects of factors such as extremes of heat, cold, or starvation. This article is primarily concerned with sensory detection, not with stress effects, and focuses primarily on fields of geomagnetic intensities.
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