Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Cows truly have animal magnetism

German scientists using satellite images posted online by the Google Earth software program have observed something that has escaped the notice of farmers, herders and hunters for thousands of years: Cattle grazing or at rest tend to orient their bodies in a north-south direction just like a compass needle. Studying photographs of 8,510 cattle in 308 herds from around the world, zoologists Sabine Begall and Hynek Burda of the University of Duisburg-Essen and their colleagues found that two out of every three animals in the pictures were oriented in a direction roughly pointing to magnetic north. [...] Researchers have long known that certain bacteria, birds, fish, whales and even rodents have minute organs in their brains containing particles of magnetite that can act like a compass. But the new results are the first hint that larger land-based mammals may also have such organs, said biologist Kenneth J. Lohmann of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, who was not involved in the research.
Full story here


Annom said...

Interesting. I think the title is a bit strong though. It's far from sure that cows have a compass inside. There could be other explanations for their preferred direction. Can't it be the sun for example? Or winds and terrain?

It's interesting, but doesn't provide enough evidence for cows having a compass.

Is it ever checked whether we have it or not? I could imagine that we have such a sensor, but can't consciously use it. I want a build-in compass :)

cybrbeast said...

Good point Annom, the sun seems a likely alternative to a magnetic compass. Especially if it's only used to align the cows north-south. In general this alignment would tend the warm the cow the most by the sun which moves from east to west.