Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Cows and Deer Stand In Alignment

European scientists have made a discovery that has previously gone unnoticed by animal behaviorists everywhere.

They studied satellite images of cows and deer worldwide and have discovered that these animals align themselves with Earth’s north-south magnetic fields when they graze or rest. It has been known for many years that birds, turtles, and salmon use magnetic guidance to migrate, cattle or deer were not previously known to possess an inner magnetic compass.

Farmers have found that cattle stand perpendicular to the sun to heat up their bodies on cold, sunny days, or stand parallel to the wind during winter days with particularly strong winds, the scientists noted.

However the common alignment of cattle during days with optimal weather had not been particularly noted by either farmers or scientists. "Amazingly, this ubiquitous phenomenon does not seem to have been noticed by herdsmen, ranchers, or hunters," said the study, co-written by Sabine Begall of Germany's University of Duisburg-Essen.

"Because wind and light conditions could be excluded as a common denominator determining the body axis orientation, magnetic alignment is the most parsimonious explanation," says the study published in the August 25 edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.

The scientists used Google Earth software to study the alignment of 8,510 cows in 308 pastures around the world and 2,974 red and roe deer in 241 locations in the Czech Republic.

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