Several species of bacteria are found to contain small quantities of ferrimagnetic material that render the bacterium permanently magnetic. As such, these motile bacteria act as swimming compass needles. They tend to swim along the geomagnetic field lines in approximately straight paths. We have recently found several species living in local rivers, ponds, and lakes. Each species seems to move in a characteristic fashion when viewed under a microscope. This project aims to gain a greater understanding of the physics of the magnetoreception of these organisms through the use of video monitoring of bacterial motion under varying magnetic field conditions, analysis of transmission electron microscopy of the magnetic particles within the cells, and computer simulation of bacterial motion.
View the DivX videos of magnetic bacteria moving in response to a magnet
brought up close to the microscope slide.