Magnetoreception is a sense which allows an animal to detect the Earth’s magnetic field in order to perceive direction, altitude, or location. Magnetoreception is present in bacteria, arthropods, molluscs and members of all major taxonomic groups of vertebrates.

There are several hypotheses that magnetoreception could occur in humans due to cryptochromes, which are a class of blue light-sensitive flavoproteins, because they have been observed to detect magnetic fields in a number of species.

Furthermore, I read somewhere that magnetic bones exist in the human nose, specifically in the ethmoid sinuses. $^1$

Is there more research on those "Magnetic bones", and to what extent is magnetoreception possible in human-beings?


  • $\begingroup$ What is the dislike about? $\endgroup$ – Ebbinghaus May 22 '16 at 12:44
  • $\begingroup$ Where did you read about "magnatic bones"? Do you have a citation? $\endgroup$ – kmm May 22 '16 at 20:06
  • $\begingroup$ @kmm Yes, I do actually – nature.com/nature/journal/v301/n5895/abs/301078a0.html $\endgroup$ – Ebbinghaus May 22 '16 at 22:06
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Do be aware that most biomagnetism (even those published in Nature) can turn out to be bogus. In this preprint, Markus Meister debunks 3 recent nature papers claiming biomagnetism. Nowhere in the referenced Nature paper do I see an attempt to link the magnetic field range of the ferrous ions and the range needed for the biological function that aids bone growth and repair. It's just an exciting hypothesis as far as I can see. $\endgroup$ – James May 25 '16 at 10:24
  • $\begingroup$ @James That sounds logical, the idea of magnetoreception in humans would just be too awesome! Thanks for the useful link btw $\endgroup$ – Ebbinghaus May 25 '16 at 10:34

When we talk about 'can something happen', then I don't think the answer would need a reference.

Of course, humans can attain the ability of magnetoreception, but the main question is What good will it do to us? Instead it'd prove to be disadvantageous as:

  1. We already have smartphones, compass for identifying magnetic field, so why will the body prefer to waste energy on something which can be done without wasting energy?
  2. We all know that the earth has its own magnetic field. So whenever you wake up or go for a walk (just do any movement), you'll feel an irritating magnetic sensation. Why would that be useful?

Even if we don't talk about disadvantage, then also magnetoreception wouldn't prove to be much useful in whole human population. Randomly, some guys might get a few genetic mutations which would allow them to feel magnetic field, but that wouldn't be of any use to them.

BUT, to your interest, humans do have magnetoreceptors, in retinas. See this article:

But cryptochrome isn’t unique to birds – it’s an ancient protein with versions in all branches of life. In most cases, these proteins control daily rhythms. Humans, for example, have two cryptochromes – CRY1 and CRY2 – which help to control our body clocks. But Lauren Foley from the University of Massachusetts Medical School has found that CRY2 can double as a magnetic sensor.

or this Wikipedia article:

Humans are not thought to have a magnetic sense, but there is a chemical (a cryptochrome) in the eye which could serve this function.(2)

Source                                                           Source

So, acquiring magnetoreception might be easier than you'd expect, but it doesn't happen even in this condition. Why?, who knows? Maybe because our body rejected magnetoreception as useless. Maybe at some point of time, humans had the ability to feel/see magnetic field, but this feature now seems vestigial.

EDIT: Regarding "magnetic bones", every article that I could read only points to this Nature article you referred to in your question. So it doesn't seem like there has been much research on it, or maybe this article itself is enough to conclude the topic.








Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.