Welcome to the new version of CaltechAUTHORS. Login is currently restricted to library staff. If you notice any issues, please email coda@library.caltech.edu
Published January 1986 | Published
Journal Article Open

Evidence from Strandings for Geomagnetic Sensitivity in Cetaceans


We tested the hypothesis that cetaceans use weak anomalies in the geomagnetic field as cues for orientation, navigation and/or piloting. Using the positions of 212 stranding events of live animals in the Smith sonian compilation which fall within the boundaries of the USGS East-Coast Aeromagnetic Survey, we found that there are highly significant tendencies for cetaceans to beach themselves near coastal locations with local magnetic minima. Monte-Carlo simulations confirm the significance of these effects. These results suggest that cetaceans have a magnetic sensory systemcomparable to that in other migratory and homing animals, and predict that the magnetic topography and in particular the marine magnetic lineations may play an important role in guiding long-distance migration. The 'map' sense of migratoryanimals may therefore be largely based on a simple strategy of following paths of local magnetic minima and avoiding magnetic gradients.

Additional Information

Published by Company of Biologists 1986. Accepted 6 August 1985. We thank Dr James Mead of the Smithsonian Marine Mammal Program for providing us with the stranding data and Dr D. Clark of the National Geophysical Data Center for the USGS Aeromagnetic data. L. Dizon and A. Kobayashi-Kirschvink patiently sorted through and checked numerous stranding records, and Ed Danielson (of JPL) and Jerry Kristian (Caltech) aided the preparation of the colour images of the magnetic field. M.M. Walker gave critical advice on the manuscript. Contribution No. 4123 from the Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences, California Institute of Technology. Supported through NSF grants BNS83-00301 and PYI-8351370 to JLK.

Attached Files

Published - KIRjeb86.pdf


Files (3.2 MB)
Name Size Download all
3.2 MB Preview Download

Additional details

August 22, 2023
October 17, 2023