Magnetic Fields Give Micro Organisms Direction

October 24th, 2006 by Administrator Leave a reply »

Source: Naval Research Laboratory and Science A GoGo

In the past, scientists had suspected that being magnetic helps a bacterium find the oxygen concentrations it prefers more quickly by swimming only up and down relative to the Earth’s magnetic field, rather than randomly in all directions.

Now, with both magnetic and non-magnetic versions of the same bacteria, the researchers were able to test this hypothesis. And it seems that being magnetic does indeed help the bacteria move to preferred low-oxygen environments, but how magnetism actually does this is still not clear, appearing to be more complex than simply swimming up and down. “We determined that being magnetic actually makes the bacteria much more sensitive to oxygen when in a magnetic field, so that they swim away from oxygen at much lower concentrations,” said NRL researcher Paul Sheehan. And it seems the stronger the magnetic field, the bigger the effect.

Magnetism and magnetics continue to work in mysterious ways. Maybe we should not take it for granted that the earth has large magnetic fields all around.

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