by Guest Writer Sophie Arlow
Many people assume that astronomy is solely a human endeavor. After all, we have named constellations, created telescopes, and even landed on the Moon. However, humans are not the only species to use astronomy - from the Moon and stars to magnetic fields, animals also use information from the earth and skies.
The Mystery of Magnetite
What do salmon, dolphins, sea turtles, and whales have in common? These animals share much more than an underwater habitat – all are believed to use a mineral called magnetite to assist in navigation and migration. Magnetite is a special type of iron oxide which, as you might have guessed, is magnetic! Early humans used naturally-occurring deposits of magnetite, called lodestones, as primitive compasses.
Some specialized types of aquatic bacteria contain magnetite, which scientists hypothesize allows them to tell up from down. When exposed to a strong magnetic field, these bacteria all align perfectly, like miniature compass needles. On a larger scale, whales, dolphins, and salmon use magnetite to navigate deep below the water’s surface, where landmarks and visual cues like the sun and stars are not visible.
Expert Nautical Navigators
A serious contender for the title of most ...