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Published November 15, 1999 | Published
Journal Article Open

Ferromagnetic material in the eastern red-spotted newt notophthalmus viridescens


Behavioral results obtained from the eastern red-spotted newt (Notophthalmus viridescens) led to the suggestion of a hybrid homing system involving inputs from both a light-dependent and a non-light-dependent mechanism. To evaluate the possible role of a receptor based on biogenic magnetite in this animal, we performed magnetometry experiments on a set of newts previously used in behavioral assays. The natural remanent magnetization (NRM) carried by these newts was strong enough to be measured easily using a direct-current-biased superconducting quantum interference device functioning as a moment magnetometer. Isothermal remanent magnetizations were two orders of magnitude higher than the NRM, suggesting that ferromagnetic material consistent with magnetite is present in the body of the newt. The NRM has no preferential orientation among the animals when analyzed relative to their body axis, and the demagnetization data show that, overall, the magnetic material grains are not aligned parallel to each other within each newt. Although the precise localization of the particles was not possible, the data indicate that magnetite is not clustered in a limited area. A quantity of single-domain magnetic material is present which would be adequate for use in either a magnetic intensity or direction receptor. Our data, when combined with the functional properties of homing, suggest a link between this behavioral response and the presence of ferromagnetic material, raising the possibility that magnetite is involved at least in the map component of homing of the eastern red-spotted newt.

Additional Information

Copyright © 1999 by Company of Biologists. Accepted 25 August; published on WWW 28 October 1999. This work was supported by the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) grant WO-4307-03. We would like to thank two anonymous referees for their critical and helpful reviews of the manuscript.

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