Tel-Hai Magazine - Fall 2020
Research by Dr. Yoni Vortman How Do Birds Navigate?
“Apparently evidence has always been around and was waiting for someone to shine a light on it “ says Vortman. Contrary to "common knowledge" in the scientific community, they found, within an existing public metagenomics database that many animal samples do in fact contain a wide variety of magnetotactic bacteria species. This supports the hypothesis by refuting one of its major criticisms. Further, “for a given host, specific magnetotactic bacteria species are most commonly found. In addition, the magnetotactic bacteria of mammals such as bats and whales are more similar to each other than to penguins and sea turtles – strengthening the possibility that these bacteria are truly symbiotic to specific hosts and reducing the possibility that arbitrary environmental contamination is the cause of the presence of these magnetotactic bacteria” Fitak adds.
The authors also demonstrate that current knowledge on the diversity of these bacteria is far from comprehensive, and that the number of identified species has grown logarithmically over the past few years. The next challenge is to prove experimentally that these bacteria are indeed the basis for the transcontinental animal navigation capabilities. “It is possible that the ability of birds to find their way while migrating across continents, sea turtles crossing oceans and salmons finding their way from the ocean to the creeks, is also possible due to the tiny bacteria which reside within them”, sums Natan.
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