Animal Magnetism: Monarch Butterfly Research May Help Explain Why Men Won’t Ask for Directions

The next time you lose your bearings or take a wrong turn, blame it on animal magnetism–or your lack of it.

Monarch butterflies in Cerro Pelon, Michoacan, Mexico

Question:  How do Monarch butterflies find their way to the mountains of Michoacan, Mexico?               Answer: Cryptochromes and animal magnetism.

Scientists have known for a long time that Monarch butterflies and other animals, including humans, rely on proteins called cryptochromes that are sensitive to light and magnetic fields to set internal compasses and body clocks.

These specialized proteins help Monarchs find their way to Mexico and squirrels retrieve pecans they buried last winter.   Recent research now suggests humans also possess this magneto-sensitive gene.

“If butterflies, birds and foxes possess such a wonderful system, why would it ever have died out in the human lineage?” Dr.  John B. Phillips of Virginia Tech asked in a story in the New York Times science section  last week.  “A reassessment of human magnetosensitivity may be in order,” wrote Dr. Steven M. Reppert  of the University of Massachusetts Medical School, who conducted the research, in the journal Nature Communications.

Dr. Reppert first identified the circadian clock gene in Monarchs back in 2008.  He’s now planning further research that will explore exactly how these cryptochrome proteins sense magnetic fields and convey that information to the brain.

Some suggest the magneto-sensitivity in humans may be a leftover gene like the tailbone.  It’s not a large leap to speculate that the reason men won’t ask for directions is tied to this possibly primal instinct.  Does animal magnetism drive men to just keep going because they “know” they’ll arrive at their destination if they just keep moving?

Perhaps Dr. Reppert’s further research will provide some answers.

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