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"Magnetic Cells" Isolated For First Time 72

sciencehabit writes "For the first time, researchers have isolated magnetic cells in an animal. The cells--found in this case in rainbow trout--may help the fish respond to Earth's magnetic fields, allowing it to find its way home after spending 3 years at sea and traveling up to 300 kilometers away. The advance may help researchers get to the root of magnetic sensing in a variety of creatures, including birds."
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"Magnetic Cells" Isolated For First Time

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  • In Humans (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 09, 2012 @07:09PM (#40597527)

    My brother-in-law, Big Ed, has a metal plate in his head from when he was kicked by a mule, and he can tell the difference between Miller and Miller Light without looking at the labels. Also he has a magnetic memory.

  • by slew ( 2918 ) on Monday July 09, 2012 @07:24PM (#40597635)

    I thought they figured this stuff out already for birds...
    Some references here [] and here []...

    • by ljw1004 ( 764174 ) on Monday July 09, 2012 @08:05PM (#40597953)

      Your second link says "Despite decades of study, the physical basis of the avian magnetic sense remains elusive". It goes on to say that one hypothesis is magnetite, and another hypothesis is the generation of radical pairs inside cryptochrome, but this wasn't confirmed since no atomic-resolution structure of cryptochrome has yet been produced.

      The article says that individual cells have been isolated which operate on magnetite. So it looks like it (1) is the first time there's been an actual confirmed result, and (2) it contradicts the cryptochrome hypothesis.

      But I know nothing about this field. I'm merely reading the linked articles.

    • Second reference was particularly interesting, if way over my head. If I understand correctly the authors explore various mechanisms to explain known behaviours without knowing in which cells such occurs; the current article says they've isolated the cells themselves, at least in one species of fish. Whether the trout mechanism is the same...

  • I told you we would find them!

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Humans have the ability to sense magnetic fields. Whether most people do or not is still in question.


    Maybe we lost the ability to recognize it as we're surrounded by metals and different fields since birth and our brains couldn't figure out the input.

  • by cervesaebraciator ( 2352888 ) on Monday July 09, 2012 @07:41PM (#40597791)
    I think I'll patent magnetic flies and lures to better attract trout. Of course, it doesn't work that way but the point is it can be marketed as though it does.
    • I'll patent your patent because I use it with my iRod and iReel. My iRod and iReel are different than your Rod and Reel. Notice the "i" before Rod and Reel.

  • Obligatory (Score:2, Funny)

    by srussia ( 884021 )
    Dr. Evil: You know, I have one simple request. And that is to have sharks with frickin' laser beams attached to their heads! Now evidently my cycloptic colleague informs me that that cannot be done. Ah, would you remind me what I pay you people for, honestly? Throw me a bone here! What do we have?

    Number Two: Rainbow trout

    Dr. Evil: [pause] Right.

    Number Two: They're trout with magnetic sensors

    Dr. Evil: Are they ill tempered?

    Number Two: Absolutely.

    Dr. Evil: Oh well, that's a start.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Steelhead. Not rainbow trout. Same species, but the ocean-going variety are called steelhead.

    • Steelhead. Not rainbow trout. Same species, but the ocean-going variety are called steelhead.

      Except that the steel should attract the magnetite and the fish would end up swimming in circles.

      But on a more serious note, where does the trout get the magnetite from? Nibbling on rocks? Is there some giant deposit deep in the ocean (next to a derelict alien spaceship perhaps)? Can they filter it out from the water?

      • by anagama ( 611277 )

        Except that the steel should attract the magnetite and the fish would end up swimming in circles.

        Except the ocean just dissolves steel, unless it's stainless steel (and then the process is merely slower, not absent), and a lot of stainless steel doesn't attract magnets.

      • by sFurbo ( 1361249 )
        Magnetite is an iron oxide. Iron comes a a premium for life (which is why we are so efficient at keeping what we have in our bodies), but the fish wouldn't get long without hemoglobin in their blood, so they must have a supply of iron.
    • Re:They're called (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Solandri ( 704621 ) on Monday July 09, 2012 @09:27PM (#40598465)
      It gets worse. The taxonomy of the salmonids was based on morphology in the centuries before DNA testing. When the DNA was actually tested, ichthyologists had a lot of egg on their faces. Not only did they find that the steelhead and rainbow trout were the same species, it turned out the rainbow trout - arguably the archetypical trout - is actually a salmon. It also turned out the Atlantic salmon (the most common species of "farmed salmon") was a trout, not a salmon.

      The rainbow trout's genus [] was quietly changed from Salmo to Oncorhynchus, placing it with the other salmons. Several trout (including the ubiquitous lake trout) turned out to be char, genus Salvelinus.
    • You beat me to it! I was going to point out that "rainbow trout" don't migrate out to sea.
  • Back in the day, we had magnetic cores and we flipped them on and off to find F1SH.

    And we liked it!

    Also, as AC pointed out, Rainbow Trout are landlocked salmonids. Usually due to really large geological alterations like those in Nelson BC which created that giant Kootenay Lake you see in all the SciFi movies. Technically, the genomes are pretty much the same, though.

  • by trout007 ( 975317 ) on Monday July 09, 2012 @08:20PM (#40598055)

    We trouts have an excellent sense of direction.

  • Seriously - let's combine this article with the earlier one from today []. All we need are some nanotrancievers and rainbow trout do the mapping!

    • Yeah, this article completely reminded me of that article. It seems to me that the compas learning could be done in a very similar way.

  • I was bitten by a radioactive rainbow trout when I was a student. Now I have the proportionate strength and agility of a rainbow trout, so yeah... not much of a change.
    At least I get rainbow trout sense! I always know which stream is home.
  • TFA calls them Rainbow Trout, but usually the anadromous variety are called Steelhead Trout []. Kind of interesting that the name was given to them long before anyone knew their heads contain little magnets.
  • by Vegemeister ( 1259976 ) on Monday July 09, 2012 @10:08PM (#40598691)
    How was this difficult? I mean, wouldn't it just be:

    1. Puree
    2. Dredge with magnet
    • Re:What's the catch? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by gman003 ( 1693318 ) on Monday July 09, 2012 @10:58PM (#40598907)

      Because the cells are far too weak a magnet for that to work. Any magnet strong enough to pull out the magnetic cells will be strong enough to move *any* water-containing cell.

      From reading TFA, it seems they did this by placing samples under a microscope, then slowly rotating a strong magnet beneath it. The magnetic cells rotated with the magnet; the non-magnetic cells did not.

  • by Kaz Kylheku ( 1484 ) on Monday July 09, 2012 @10:14PM (#40598719) Homepage

    They are located in the dermis of the upper lip and produce a feature called "moustache".

    This produces an irresistible magnetic attraction in the opposite sex.

  • I wonder how radio communication never evolved in animals (and/or plants). It seems like it's something that should be possible given the fact that we all use electrical signals in the nervous system. Heck some creatures like the electric eel can produce lots of it. I imagine it may start of with sea creatures that can detect others by detecting electrical activity and then refining that to rf tuning followed by the ability to adjust ones own electrical activity at well. I suspect that given a few hundred

  • do they work?
  • Rainbow Trout are not salt water fish, they are fresh water only. Article is bullshit.
    • "Rainbow Trout are not salt water fish, they are fresh water only. Article is bullshit."

      No, you are. ;)

      From []

      "Like salmon, steelheads are anadromous: they return to their original hatching ground to spawn. Similar to Atlantic salmon, but unlike their Pacific Oncorhynchus salmonid kin, steelheads are iteroparous (able to spawn several times, each time separated by months) and make several spawning trips between fresh and salt water. The steelhead smolts (im

  • Rainbow trout do not migrate to the sea and back. Perhaps your thinking of Steelheads.

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