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J Exp Biol. 2016 Jun 15;219(Pt 12):1827-32. doi: 10.1242/jeb.136036. Epub 2016 Apr 4.

Effect of magnetic pulses on Caribbean spiny lobsters: implications for magnetoreception.

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Department of Biology, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC 27599, USA
Department of Biology, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC 27599, USA.


The Caribbean spiny lobster, Panulirus argus, is a migratory crustacean that uses Earth's magnetic field as a navigational cue, but how these lobsters detect magnetic fields is not known. Magnetic material thought to be magnetite has previously been detected in spiny lobsters, but its role in magnetoreception, if any, remains unclear. As a first step toward investigating whether lobsters might have magnetite-based magnetoreceptors, we subjected lobsters to strong, pulsed magnetic fields capable of reversing the magnetic dipole moment of biogenic magnetite crystals. Lobsters were subjected to a single pulse directed from posterior to anterior and either: (1) parallel to the horizontal component of the geomagnetic field (i.e. toward magnetic north); or (2) antiparallel to the horizontal field (i.e. toward magnetic south). An additional control group was handled but not subjected to a magnetic pulse. After treatment, each lobster was tethered in a water-filled arena located within 200 m of the capture location and allowed to walk in any direction. Control lobsters walked in seemingly random directions and were not significantly oriented as a group. In contrast, the two groups exposed to pulsed fields were significantly oriented in approximately opposite directions. Lobsters subjected to a magnetic pulse applied parallel to the geomagnetic horizontal component walked westward; those subjected to a pulse directed antiparallel to the geomagnetic horizontal component oriented approximately northeast. The finding that a magnetic pulse alters subsequent orientation behavior is consistent with the hypothesis that magnetoreception in spiny lobsters is based at least partly on magnetite-based magnetoreceptors.


Magnetite; Magnetoreceptor; Navigation; Orientation; Panulirus argus; Pulse magnetization

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