Animal Magnetoreceptor Cells—Evidence of Design? Part 1

Scientists are uncovering more and more data on the phenomenon of animal magnetoreception—which provides the ability of certain species to navigate using the Earth’s magnetic field. Is this remarkable ability evidence for evolution—or for a divine Designer? This two-part series discusses some of the research findings and demonstrates how magnetoreception supports creation.

In recent years, humans have gained the ability to navigate with satellite-based GPS systems. But some animals possess 

internal

 GPS systems, probably for millennia. The amazing explanation for this feature—which scientists are uncovering—is that certain species are able to read small variations in the intensity of Earth’s magnetic field and use that to guide them to their destination.

A recent article

1

 in the 

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS)

reports that researchers were able to “reproducibly detect magnetic cells” firmly coupled to the cell membrane in the trout 

olfactory epithelium

 (the tissue in the nasal cavity linked to smell).

2

 This article states that trout’s magnetic cells “clearly meet the physical requirements for a 

magnetoreceptor

 capable of rapidly detecting small changes in the external magnetic field.”

Over 50 years of scientific study of this phenomenon have revealed that it is made possible because 

magnetite

3

 (a highly magnetic mineral) occurs naturally in the cells of many organisms—including the human brain.

4

Pigeons are similarly endowed with magnetoreceptors. An 

article

 featured in the May 25, 2012 issue of 

Science

 describes research which suggests this is due to the design of the pigeon brainstem:

5

Neuronal responses in the pigeon’s brainstem...show how single cells encode magnetic field direction, intensity, and polarity—qualities that are necessary to derive an internal model representing directional heading and geosurface location.

And yet another 

recent paper

 in 

Current Biology

 reports data which “imply that loggerhead [sea turtles] have a navigational system that exploits the Earth’s magnetic field as a kind of bicoordinate magnetic map from which both longitudinal and latitudinal information can be extracted.”

6

Cutting through the technical jargon: scientists are piecing together how salmon know to travel hundreds of miles to the spawning ground of their birth, how homing pigeons know how to find home, how sea turtles know the roundtrip route from Florida to Africa, and how a variety of animals have an intuitive directional sense that has defied explanation for centuries.

This research is revealing that many animals have natural magnetoreceptors that read and interpret the Earth’s magnetic field.

The Planet’s Magnetism

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