Herds of cattle tend to align themselves along the earth’s north-south magnetic lines, as do deer, according to researchers who used Google Earth to study about 8,500 cows in 308 locations around the world.
“Google Earth is perfect for this kind of research, because the animals are undisturbed by the observer," Sabine Begall, a zoologist at the University of Duisburg-Essen in Germany and coauthor of the study detailed in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, told Live Science.
Rearchers pointed out that learning the importance of magnetic direction could help us better understand, for example, the effect of having cattle barns facing one direction or the other, especially in milk production. Perhaps east-west facing barns could have negative effects on the milk cows.
The data on about 3,000 deer came from direct ground observations and photos in the Czech Republic. Researchers also examined fresh beds left by resting deer in the snow, where the animals had sought shelter deep in the forest away from the wind.
Both cattle and deer faced a more magnetic north-south direction rather than geographic north-south, the researchers said. Birds, turtles and some fish migrate along magnetic directions, and some other creatures such as rodents and bats have internal magnetic compasses.
"Our first idea was to study sleeping directions of humans,but there are too many constraints," Begall told LiveScience. "So, the idea arose to look for other large mammals like cattle.”
Click here for the Live Science article.