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Cattle shown to align north-south

Have you ever noticed that herds of grazing animals all face the same way?
Images from Google Earth have confirmed that cattle tend to align their bodies in a north-south direction. Wild deer also display this behaviour - a phenomenon that has apparently gone unnoticed by herdsmen and hunters for thousands of years. Scientists say the Earth's magnetic fields may influence the behaviour of these animals. The Earth can be viewed as a huge magnet, with magnetic north and south situated close to the geographical poles. Many species - including birds and salmon - are known to use the Earth's magnetic fields in migration, rather like a natural GPS. A few studies have shown that some mammals - including bats - also use a "magnetic compass" to help their sense of direction. A study ruled out the possibility that the Sun position or wind direction were major influences on the orientation of the cattle. "In Africa and South America, the cattle (were) shifted slightly to a more north-eastern-south-western direction. But it is known that the Earth's magnetic field is much weaker there." Fieldwork revealed that the majority of grazing and resting deer face northward. About one-third of the deer faced southward. This sixth magnetic sense might be "virtually ubiquitous in the animal kingdom". "We need to think about some really fundamental things that this sensory ability provides in animals."

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