Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Tiny Magnetic Crystals In Bacteria Are A Compass, Say Scientists

Date:
December 18, 2008
Source:
Imperial College London
Summary:
Scientists have shown that tiny crystals found inside bacteria provide a magnetic compass to help them navigate through sediment to find the best food.

These tiny magnetic crystals (figures a, b,c and d) help the bacteria to navigate.
Credit: Image courtesy of Imperial College London

Scientists have shown that tiny crystals found inside bacteria provide a magnetic compass to help them navigate through sediment to find the best food.

Researchers say their study could provide fresh clues to explain biomagnetism – a phenomenon in which some birds, insects and marine life navigate using the magnetic field that encompasses the Earth.

The study focuses on magnetotactic bacteria, which contain chains of magnetic crystals, called magnetosomes. They exist all over the globe, living in lake and pond sediments and in ocean coastal regions.

Since the discovery of magnetotactic bacteria in the 1970s, it has not been clear exactly what magnetosomes were for. Previous research suggested that some magnetosome chains would not be useful for navigation because their crystal sizes did not possess the right magnetic qualities.

However, researchers at Imperial College London and the University of Edinburgh have now shown that previous modelling methods were inaccurate. New calculations prove that all known magnetosomes do posses the right magnetic qualities needed to facilitate navigation. Study leader, Dr Adrian Muxworthy, from Imperial's Department of Earth Science and Engineering, explains:

"Magnetosomes align with one another to form a chain inside the bacteria and work like a magnetic compass. We are still not sure how, but this compass interacts with the Earth's magnetic field, helping the bacteria to navigate through sediment to the best feeding grounds."

Dr Muxworthy says the study is a nice example of evolution which demonstrates how a relatively simple organism can develop a highly optimised navigational capability. He says it may provide fresh insights into the evolutionary processes that have helped other animals and aquatic species to become skilled navigators.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Imperial College London. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Adrian R. Muxworthy, Wyn Williams. Critical superparamagnetic/single-domain grain sizes in interacting magnetite particles: implications for magnetosome crystals. Royal Society Interface, December 16, 2008

Cite This Page:

Imperial College London. "Tiny Magnetic Crystals In Bacteria Are A Compass, Say Scientists." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 18 December 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/12/081216201412.htm>.
Imperial College London. (2008, December 18). Tiny Magnetic Crystals In Bacteria Are A Compass, Say Scientists. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 18, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/12/081216201412.htm
Imperial College London. "Tiny Magnetic Crystals In Bacteria Are A Compass, Say Scientists." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/12/081216201412.htm (accessed April 18, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Friday, April 18, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

The Great British Farmland Boom

The Great British Farmland Boom

Reuters - Business Video Online (Apr. 17, 2014) Britain's troubled Co-operative Group is preparing to cash in on nearly 18,000 acres of farmland in one of the biggest UK land sales in decades. As Ivor Bennett reports, the market timing couldn't be better, with farmland prices soaring over 270 percent in the last 10 years. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Flamingo Frenzy Ahead of Zoo Construction

Flamingo Frenzy Ahead of Zoo Construction

AP (Apr. 17, 2014) With plenty of honking, flapping, and fluttering, more than three dozen Caribbean flamingos at Zoo Miami were rounded up today as the iconic exhibit was closed for renovations. (April 17) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Change of Diet Helps Crocodile Business

Change of Diet Helps Crocodile Business

Reuters - Business Video Online (Apr. 16, 2014) Crocodile farming has been a challenge in Zimbabwe in recent years do the economic collapse and the financial crisis. But as Ciara Sutton reports one of Europe's biggest suppliers of skins to the luxury market has come up with an unusual survival strategy - vegetarian food. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Could Even Casual Marijuana Use Alter Your Brain?

Could Even Casual Marijuana Use Alter Your Brain?

Newsy (Apr. 16, 2014) A new study conducted by researchers at Northwestern and Harvard suggests even casual marijuana use can alter your brain. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins