27 August 2008

Cows face north-south

You might have heard the saying that moss mainly grows on the north side of trees. That "rule" is generally only true in the northern latitudes and dependent on the area's ambient light and moisture. But here's a new orientation rule in case you get lost, cows and deer tend to face magnetic north or south when grazing and resting.

I'm amazed at how people use Google applications these days, and in the case of this study German and Czech researchers examined over 8000 cows and almost 3000 deer satellite images using Google Earth. Researchers have previously shown that many animals have a magnetic sense, from fruit flies, birds, amphibians and fish. However, this is the first report of large mammals sensing magnetic fields.

For a more in depth summary, check out Scientific American's article here, or if you're not up to reading, they have a 60 second podcast too.

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