The birds and bees do it and—yes—even bacteria in the seas do it. Species of all these organisms synthesize tiny crystals of magnetite. The demonstration of a direct link between this magnetic material and an orientational response for at least the simplest of these organisms—bacteria—has suggested the tantalizing possibility that the magnetic material found in the abdomen of honey bees and near the skull of pigeons may play a similar guidance role. Recent studies on the bacteria have identified the magnetic particles as crystals of magnetite that fall in the narrow size range for single domains—an optimal configuration.

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