Feeds

Magnetic cells put biologists in a spin

Trout's nose might hold secret to homing sense

Build a business case: developing custom apps

Scientists have long believed that some kind of magnetic sense lies behind some animals’ navigation ability, which in the case of some fish and birds seems to operate without the need for obvious landmarks. Now, a German researcher believes he has tagged individual cells that respond to magnetic fields.

Doing so needs a fair bit of patience, however: Stephan Eder of Munic’s Ludwig-Maximilians University first surrounded his collection of cells with a rotating magnetic field, and then watched to see which cells began to spin.

The rainbow trout was chosen because, back in 1997, a researcher called Michael Walker identified possible magnetoreceptors in its nose, spotting cells that contained iron crystals.

Eder confirmed this – but the crucial cells aren’t easy to spot. Placing the tissue samples in a slowly rotating magnetic field, he found that just one in 10,000 started spinning in time with the field.

According to this report over at Discover, the rarity of the cells isn’t a fluke: study leader Michael Winklhofer said “The cells are strongly magnetic, and if they are spaced too closely, they interfere with each other, which would deteriorate the sensitivity of the magnetic sense.”

The cells’ sensitivity to magnetic fields also turned out to be much stronger than expected, as is noted in the abstract of Eder’s paper, published in PNAS. ®

Boost IT visibility and business value

More from The Register

next story
Just TWO climate committee MPs contradict IPCC: The two with SCIENCE degrees
'Greenhouse effect is real, but as for the rest of it ...'
Asteroid's DINO KILLING SPREE just bad luck – boffins
Sauricide WASN'T inevitable, reckon scientists
Flamewars in SPAAACE: cooler fires hint at energy efficiency
Experiment aboard ISS shows we should all chill out for cleaner engines
Brit amateur payload set to complete full circle around PLANET EARTH
Ultralight solar radio tracker in glorious 25,000km almost-space odyssey
Boffins spot weirder quantum capers as neutrons take the high road, spin takes the low
Cheshire cat effect see neutrons and their properties walk different paths
NASA Mars rover FINALLY equals 1973 Soviet benchmark
Yet to surpass ancient Greek one, however
Famous 'Dish' radio telescope to be emptied in budget crisis: CSIRO
Radio astronomy suffering to protect Square Kilometre Array
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.
Maximize storage efficiency across the enterprise
The HP StoreOnce backup solution offers highly flexible, centrally managed, and highly efficient data protection for any enterprise.