Send to

Choose Destination
Bioelectromagnetics. 1989;10(3):239-59.

Magnetite biomineralization and geomagnetic sensitivity in higher animals: an update and recommendations for future study.

Author information

Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena 91125.


Magnetite, the only known biogenic material with ferromagnetic properties, has been identified as a biochemical precipitate in three of the five kingdoms of living organisms, with a fossil record that now extends back nearly 2 billion years. In the magnetotactic bacteria, protoctists, and fish, single-domain crystals of magnetite are arranged in membrane-bound linear structures called magnetosomes, which function as biological bar magnets. Magnetosomes in all three of these groups bear an overall structural similarity to each other, which includes alignment of the individual crystallographic [111] directions parallel to the long axis. Although the magnetosomes represent only a small volume fraction in higher organisms, enough of these highly energetic structures are present to provide sensitivity to extremely small fluctuations and gradients in the background geomagnetic field. Previous experiments with elasmobranch fish are reexamined to test the hypothesis that gradients played a role in their successful geomagnetic conditioning, and a variety of four-turn coil designs are considered that could be used to test the various hypotheses proposed for them.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Loading ...
Support Center