Electric and magnetic senses in marine animals, and potential behavioral effects of electromagnetic surveys

Mar Environ Res. 2020 Mar;155:104888. doi: 10.1016/j.marenvres.2020.104888. Epub 2020 Jan 24.


Electromagnetic surveys generate electromagnetic fields to map petroleum deposits under the seabed with unknown consequences for marine animals. The electric and magnetic fields induced by electromagnetic surveys can be detected by many marine animals, and the generated fields may potentially affect the behavior of perceptive animals. Animals using magnetic cues for migration or local orientation, especially during a restricted time-window, risk being affected by electromagnetic surveys. In electrosensitive animals, anthropogenic electric fields could disrupt a range of behaviors. The lack of studies on effects of the electromagnetic fields induced by electromagnetic surveys on the behavior of magneto- and electrosensitive animals is a reason for concern. Here, we review the use of electric and magnetic fields among marine animals, present data on survey generated and natural electromagnetic fields, and discuss potential effects of electromagnetic surveys on the behavior of marine animals.

Keywords: Ecosystem management; Electromagnetism; Electrosensitive animals; Energy resources; Magnetism; Magneto sensitive animals; Noise; Orientation; Pollution effects.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Aquatic Organisms / physiology*
  • Electromagnetic Fields / adverse effects*
  • Electrophysiological Phenomena*
  • Human Activities*