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Magnetic attraction for fish, crabs?
Date:9/21/2010

h project is using two specially designed coils at PNNL's Marine Sciences Laboratory. The coils, called Helmholtz coils, each consist of about 200 pounds of copper wiring wrapped into a window frame-like outline that's roughly five feet by five feet. The wiring carries electricity at the flip of a switch. Like any electricity, this creates an electromagnetic field that naturally attracts magnetic materials like iron. The field around the electrical coil can create between 0.1 and 3 milliTeslas of magnetic flux. Three milliTeslas is about three-tenths the magnetic flux of a typical small bar magnet. Previous research into how electromagnetic fields affect marine animals has been in the 3 to 5 milliTesla range.

Researchers want to know if the electromagnetic field will also affect marine and estuarine animal behavior, including migration, finding food and avoiding predators. Several aquatic animals such as sharks, skates, salmon, sea turtles and lobsters - may use the Earth's natural magnetic fields like a compass to navigate and detect their prey.

To test the field's potential effects, aquarium tanks filled with marine species are being placed near the two coils. Then researchers will activate the electromagnetic field at various strengths and time periods to see if the animals' actions change.

For example, researchers will observe whether the electromagnetic field interferes with the ability of juvenile Coho salmon to recognize and avoid predators. Young salmon normally stop swimming, go low and stay still when they detect a predator. Also, the scientists will examine whether the typically fast, flicking movements of Dungeness crab antennules the small antennae next to crabs' eyes that help them detect odors change when exposed to the electromagnetic field. And researchers will document whether the animals are attracted or repelled by the fields.

"We really don't know if the animals will be affected or not," Ward said. "There's
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Contact: Franny White
frances.white@pnl.gov
509-375-6904
DOE/Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
Source:Eurekalert  

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