Magnetic Sensitivity and its Possible Physical Basis in the Yellowfin Tuna, Thunnus Albacares

  • Michael M. Walker
Part of the NATO Conference Series book series (NATOCS, volume 14)

Abstract

Many animals are known to orient to magnetic fields. However, two central problems in the study of magnetic sensitivity have been the almost complete failure of magnetic field conditioning experiments and the lack of evidence for a feasible transduction mechanism. In the studies reported here yellowfin tuna learned to discriminate between two Earth-strength magnetic fields in a discrete-trials/fixed-interval conditioning procedure. Magnetometry experiments, diffraction spectra and electron microscope analyses demonstrated single-domain crystals of the ferromagnetic mineral magnetite in the head of this species. The crystals are concentrated in tissue contained within a sinus formed by the ethmoid bones of the skull. Theoretical analyses show that the crystals would be suitable for use in magnetoreception if linked to the nervous system. The physical properties of the crystals would determine the operation of magnetoreceptor organelles and constrain the capacities of the magnetic sense. Tests of these constraints in appropriately designed conditioning experiments will provide powerful tests of the ferromagnetic magnetoreception hypothesis.

Keywords

Titanium Migration Chromium Torque EDTA 

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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1984

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael M. Walker
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.National Marine Fisheries Service, Southwest Fisheries Center, Honolulu LaboratoryNational Oceanic and Atmospheric AdministrationHonoluluUSA
  2. 2.Department of ZoologyUniversity of HawaiiHonoluluUSA

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