Dolphin in aquarium of Barcelona
vdorse—Getty Images/Flickr RF
By Laura Stampler
September 30, 2014

According to a French study released Monday, dolphins are attracted to magnets. Platonically, of course.

To find out if dolphins are magnetosensitive—or able to sense Earth’s magnetic field—researchers tested how six bottleneck dolphins swimming freely independently reacted to barrels containing both magnetized and demagnetized blocks.

Dolphins approached the device with shorter latency when it contained a strongly magnetized neodymium block compared to a control demagnetized block that was identical in form and density and therefore undistinguishable with echolocation. We conclude that dolphins are able to discriminate the two stimuli on the basis of their magnetic properties, a prerequisite for magnetoreception-based navigation.

If the findings hold up to scrutiny, it would be a momentous discovery. Although many animals are suspected to orient themselves using the Earth’s magnetic pull, there’s precious little proof that this is the case. Researchers from Baylor College of Medicine concluded in 2012 that pigeons have magnetosensitive GPS cells in their brains.

We don’t quite know where this fits into dolphins’ plot to take over the world, but now that they might be working with the pigeons, we are utterly terrified.

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