Several animals and microbes have been shown to be sensitive to magnetic fields, though the exact mechanisms of this ability remain unclear in many animals. Chitons are marine molluscs which have high levels of biomineralised magnetite coating their radulae. This discovery led to persistent anecdotal suggestions that they too may be able to navigationally respond to magnetic fields. Several researchers have attempted to test this, but to date there have been no large-scale controlled empirical trials. In the current study, four chiton species (Katharina tunicata, Mopalia kennerleyi, Mopalia muscosa and Leptochiton rugatus, n=24 in each) were subjected to natural and artificially rotated magnetic fields while their movement through an arena was recorded over four hours. Field orientation did not influence the position of the chitons at the end of trials, possibly as a result of the primacy of other sensory cues (i.e. thigmotaxis). Under non-rotated magnetic field conditions, the orientation of subjects when they first reached the edge of an arena was clustered around 309-345 degrees (north-north-west) in all four species. However, orientations were random under the rotated magnetic field, which may indicate a disruptive effect of field rotation. This pattern suggests that chitons can detect and respond to magnetism.
Bibliographical noteSpecial issue: Who are the 'Aculifera'?
- MOLLUSK TRITONIA-DIOMEDEA
- RESPONSIVE NEURONS
- MARINE MOLLUSK