Magnetic Field & the GPS of Pigeons
Certain neurons in pigeon brains encode the direction and intensity of Earth’s magnetic field, providing the common birds with an internal global positioning system, according to a new study.
The findings in the study, published in the latest Science Express, likely apply to other birds as well.
“We have found cells in the (pigeon) brain that signal the direction, intensity and polarity of an applied magnetic field,” co-author David Dickman, a Baylor College of Medicine neuroscientist, told Discovery News. “These three qualities can be used by the brain to compute heading information, like a compass, and latitude on the Earth surface (location between the magnetic North and South Poles).”
“It is possible that magnetic intensity could also be used to give the bird longitude (East-West location) through learned associations of differing regional variations along the Earth surface,” he added. “Together, these cells could form the basis of determining heading direction and position according to a brain representation of a magnetic Earth surface map.”
Pigeons don’t look like geniuses, but they are as good at math as monkeys, suggesting that perhaps all bird varieties have numerical abilities.
So when scientists tell us a magnetic pole shift will be harmless, they are being too quickly dismissive. Imagine 100 billion birds who, by varying degress, suddenly don’t know where they are going! I doubt a single scientist has consider what sort of butterfly effect this might have on the rest of the world.