Geomagnetic Sensitivity in Cetaceans: An Update With Live Stranding Records in the United States

  • Joseph L. Kirschvink
Part of the NATO ASI Series book series (NSSA, volume 196)


Cetacean stranding sites have been linked to the presence of local magnetic anomalies in several widely-separated geographic areas, including the eastern coast of North America and the British Islands. Previous studies of this sort have been hampered largely by inadequate survey data for the magnetic field, as well as by incomplete records of cetacean stranding events. A major improvement in the geomagnetic anomaly data available for these studies has been the 1988 publication of the geomagnetic anomaly map of North America compiled by the Geological Society of America, and its subsequent public release in digital form. Compared with the records of cetacean live stranding events compiled by the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., these new magnetic anomaly data more than double the number of live stranding events in the United States which fall within the boundaries of geomagnetic surveys. These new data add further support to the hypothesis that cetaceans possess a geomagnetic sensory system comparable to that in other migratory and homing animals, and are consistent with previous suggestions that features of the geomagnetic field, in particular the marine magnetic lineations, play an important role in the long-distance navigation of marine mammals.


Magnetic Anomaly Sockeye Salmon Thunnus Albacares Magnetotactic Bacterium Homing Pigeon 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • Joseph L. Kirschvink
    • 1
  1. 1.Division of Geological and Planetary SciencesThe California Institute of TechnologyPasadenaUSA

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