Dolphins appear to perceive magnetic fields

bottlenose dolphin

This bottlenose dolphin and five others were more quickly interested in a block that was magnetized than one that was not, suggesting the animals can sense magnetic fields.

Courtesy of Planète Sauvage, France

Captive bottlenose dolphins are quicker to explore a magnetized block than a demagnetized one, suggesting that the dolphins can detect magnetic fields, a new study shows. Past observations of wild dolphins, whales and porpoises had hinted that the animals are sensitive to magnetic fields and use the sensory perception for better navigation. The study provides the first experimental evidence linking the animals’ magnetic sense to their behavior, the team writes September 30 in Naturwissenschaften – The Science of Nature.

photo of Ashley Yeager

Ashley Yeager is the associate news editor at Science News. She has worked at The Scientist, the Simons Foundation, Duke University and the W.M. Keck Observatory, and was the web producer for Science News from 2013 to 2015. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and a master’s degree in science writing from MIT.

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