Bacteria's tiny magnetic crystals are a compass, say researchers

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Washington, Dec 17 (ANI): Scientists from Imperial College London and the University of Edinburgh have found that tiny crystals found inside bacteria provide a magnetic compass to help them navigate through sediment to find the best food.

They believe that the research may provide vital clues explain biomagnetism - a phenomenon in which some birds, insects and marine life navigate using the magnetic field that encompasses the Earth.

The researchers focused their study 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.

Previous studies have shown that some magnetosome chains would not be useful for navigation because their crystal sizes did not possess the right magnetic qualities.

However, the new study claims that previous modelling methods were inaccurate and new calculations prove that all known magnetosomes do posses the right magnetic qualities needed to facilitate navigation.

"Magnetosomes align with one another to form a chain inside the bacteria and work like a magnetic compass," said study leader, Dr Adrian Muxworthy, from Imperial's Department of Earth Science and Engineering.

"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," he added.

The study is published in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface. (ANI)

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