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Magnetoreception (also magnetoception) is a sense which allows an organism to detect a magnetic field to perceive direction, altitude or location. This sensory modality is used by a range of animals for orientation and navigation, and as a method for animals to develop regional maps. For the purpose of navigation, magnetoreception deals with the detection of the Earth's magnetic field.
Magnetoreception is present in bacteria, arthropods, molluscs and members of all major taxonomic groups of vertebrates. Humans are not thought to have a magnetic sense, but there is a protein (a cryptochrome) in the eye which could serve this function.
originally posted by: toms54
a reply to: blend57
A couple of months ago I saw an article about the Polynesians on how they could go to all these islands in the Pacific. I wish I could find it again and link to it. Basically, some of them trained through a kind of apprenticeship to read the ocean waves They say they are able to "feel" the currents and detect far away islands using the reflections of waves from distant shores. Apparently it's a dying art. Only one or two people are still around that can do this.
They also made maps using sticks in a kind of a grid pattern with other sticks inserted to indicate currents and islands.
I don't have much to contribute but I will say this, we are animals too and despite what we have forgotten we still have the internal mechanisms for navigation.
I loved the Darwin quote, I've had very similar thoughts on the subject. I've been fascinated with the idea of a sense of direction for a while.
originally posted by: TNMockingbird
a reply to: blend57
It's putting a stick in the ground and using pebbles to get your coordinates, then if you've researched the area that you are in beforehand you can hopefully find that river to the north or road or where the town was on your way to your current location...I'll try to find something on that and send you the link.