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Tests performed on these same animals 18 months later confirmed that the enucleated animals behaved no differently than the other captive mole-rats who still had their eyes.
The researchers then created nesting grounds in which they could precisely control the magnetic field to test the two groups of animals’ homemaking capabilities.
The control animals who kept their eyes nested as normal but those who had them removed nested in seemingly random locations, indicating that, whatever the specific mechanism responsible for the magnetic sensitivity, it is located in the eyes.
“We conclude that the removal of the eyes led to a permanent impairment of the magnetic sense,” the team writes. “Our study is the first to identify a magnetoreceptive organ in a mammal.”
Caspar proposes further, detailed examination of the mole rats’ eyes using electron microscopes to figure out exactly where the elusive magentoreceptors are located and how exactly they function.
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