Feeds

Grazing cattle display animal magnetism

Bodies align to north-south axis

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

Researchers have explained why cattle will tend to face the same direction when grazing - a behaviour long known to herdsmen and hunters but previously attributed to either prevailing winds or the sun's position.

In fact, Reuters reports, they align their bodies along a north-south axis, suggesting the Earth's magnetic field is the "polarizing factor".

To prove it, Sabine Begall and colleagues at the University of Duisburg-Essen perused 8,510 Google Earth images encompassing 308 pastures and plains worldwide, plus "deer bed" impressions in snow created by around 3,000 deer in over 225 locations in the Czech Republic.

The team found that "whether grazing or resting, these animals face either magnetic north or south". Since the direction of the wind and sun "varied widely where the images were taken", it's reasonable to suggest they're reacting to the planet's magnetic influence.

Begall and colleagues reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences: "Our results call for an in-depth study of this phenomenon and challenge neuroscientists, biochemists and physicists to study the proximate mechanisms and biological significance of magnetic alignment."

As Reuters notes, "birds, turtles and salmon are known to use the Earth's magnetic field to guide their migrations, while rodents and one bat species have been found to possess an internal magnetic compass". This is the first time, however, that large mammals have shown this kind of animal magnetism.

The team's report does, though, suggest that humans and whales are "suspected of having an innate magnetic compass", demonstrated by previous research showing that people who "sleep in an east-west position have far shorter rapid eye movement or REM sleep cycles... compared with north-south sleepers who got more REM sleep". ®

Bootnote

In the interests of good science, this hack popped out to have a shufti at a herd of around 20 local cows who were grazing away like good 'uns. Sadly, they mostly appeared to have adopted an east-westish stance - ominously with their noses pointed towards CERN's Large Hadron Collider. Bovine positional anomaly or portent of imminent magnetic field apocalypse? You decide.

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
GRAV WAVE DRAMA: 'Big Bang echo' may have been grit on the scanner – boffins
Exit Planet Dust on faster-than-light expansion of universe
SpaceX Dragon cargo truck flies 3D printer to ISS: Clawdown in 3, 2...
Craft berths at space station with supplies, experiments, toys
That glass of water you just drank? It was OLDER than the SUN
One MEELLION years older. Some of it anyway
Big dinosaur wowed females with its ENORMOUS HOOTER
That's right, Doris, I've got biggest snout in the prehistoric world
Japanese volcano eruption reportedly leaves 31 people presumed dead
Hopes fade of finding survivors on Mount Ontake
Relive the death of Earth over and over again in Extinction Game
Apocalypse now, and tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that ...
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.