Animals and Shifting Magnetic Fields


For some time we have known that animals use the Earth’s magnetic field to navigate and find their way around. However there are signs that our planet’s magnetic field is shifting and getting weaker.  Scientists are studying what effects this may have on migrating animals.

The effect of the Earth’s magnetic field on animal migration was first documented in the 1950s  when German researchers observed that birds which were held in a room would shift to certain areas during different times of the year.

With more research done, scientists found out that many animals are directed by the Earth’s magnetic field. They use the magnetic field like we use GPS to navigate.

Israeli scientists conducted an experiment with rats. They built an underground structure with passageways leading in all directions. It had no access to the surface. Then they let two groups of rats in. One group was influenced only by the natural magnetic field while the other structure had a magnetic field that the scientists could change.  They found out that the two groups behaved differently, slept and ate in different places.


Sea turtles navigate using the Earth's magnetic field

Sea turtles navigate using the Earth's magnetic field - Thierry Caro


Other animals, for example turtles, use the intensity of magnetic fields to determine their position and set markers to find their way back to breeding grounds. Whales follow magnetic lines in the sea  during the migration period. If they get off track they get stranded on the coast.

Scientists are now worried that if the intensity of the magnetic field gets weaker animals would have problems finding their way around. They say that animals, however, can adapt to changing magnetic fields rather quickly and there is no evidence that shows animals have become extinct during the geologic history of the earth because of changes in the magnetic fields. Such reversals have occurred many times but can take hundreds or thousands of years to complete.

Turtles, among the oldest species alive, have been around for millions for years. And they have survived changing magnetic fields.




Related Topics



  • access = way
  • adapt = get used to
  • behave = act
  • breeding ground = a place where animals get together to have babies
  • complete = finish
  • determine = find out
  • document = write down
  • effect = result
  • evidence = proof, facts
  • extinct = die out
  • however = but
  • influence = control
  • intensity = power, strength
  • magnetic field = an area around an object  that has magnetic power
  • marker = object that shows where something is
  • migrate = to move from one place to another
  • navigate = to find your way around
  • observe = see
  • occur = happen
  • off track = not on the path or route
  • passageway = small corridors to move
  • research = to study something very closely in order to find out new facts about it
  • reversal = if something changes to the opposite
  • scientist = a person who is trained in science
  • shift = change
  • sign = signal
  • species = group of animals that breed and have young babies together
  • stranded = not able to get away from a place
  • structure = object
  • surface = the top layer of something
  • survive = live on after a dangerous situation