Science: Plant and Animal Electromagnetic Sensitivity 

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  • Animal Electromagnetic Sensitivity long known: 
    Animal sensitivity to electromagnetic exposure has been known as long as human electromagnetic sensitivity. The biological effects of the electric eel were known in ancient times. From the 17th century scientists studied how electricity and magnetism affected both animals and humans. Many modern studies depend on animal or plant research to establish biological pathways before moving on to human studies to verify low-level effects of electromagnetic exposure.
  • Animal and plants do not experience Electrophobia: 
    One great advantage of animal and plant studies is that there is no likelihood of confusion between real Electromagnetic Sensitivity and psychological Electrophobia, since animals and plants cannot be conditioned by a cognitive, as opposed to a behaviorally conditioned fear, and cannot therefore suffer from a 'Nocebo' effect, although anyway studies show that the 'Nocebo' effect is not part of real human Electromagnetic Sensitivity.

Plant Electromagnetic Sensitivity

The electromagnetic sensitivity of plants is now well established. It is used in many aspects of horticulture and agriculture. Since many biological electromagnetic effects have 'windows' or bands of effects, and these effects can be opposite to those of other 'windows', care is needed to apply the appropriate frequency.

A school experiment on the growth of cress under WIFi and non-WiFi conditions became international news.

The increase in fungus and viral attacks on different species of trees has been linked with reduced immune systems because of man-made electromagnetic pollution, as has reduced anthocyanin production.

Trees near cellphone towers show increased disease, starting on the side closest to the tower. Experts say that cellphone towers should be banned because of the damage they are causing to nearby trees.

The effects are specific to types of plants, parts of plants, and exposures. WiFi may be particularly harmful to some plants.

About 90% of studies on cellphone radiation on plants show physiological changes:

Plants' environmental sensitivity, memory and cognitive control:

Plants show the ability to learn behaviors from sensitivity to electromagnetic and other environment factors, even though they lack an animal's nervous system, suggesting that pathways like calcium-based regulation can include memory and drive cognitive processes based on a variety of stress sensitivities. As with humans, not all plants display this learnt behavior by association, with about 60% responding and 40% not responding. The metabolic state of the plant and electromagnetic cues from visible light are also significant, with learnt behavior occurring according to the internal circadian rhythm mainly in subjective day. Epigenetic mechanisms help with transcriptional regulation to build systemic acquired resistance at distant sites.

Animal Electromagnetic Sensitivity

This is now well established for a wide range of biological conditions.

         nest-building (Malkemper EP et al, (2015

         animal orientation and location in:
             bats (Tian LX et al, 2015)
             cattle and deer (Begall S et al, 2008)            

             dogs (Hart V et al, 2013)            

             fish (Takebe A et al, 2012)             

             lizards (Diego-Rasilla FJ et al, 2017)


  • Pre-Seismic Eelectromagnetic Sensitivity:

    Sensitivity to pre-seismic changes in the electromagnetic environment, especially if transmitted through water, either sea water or water on land, appears to correlate with established effect before earthquakes on a variety of animals.

    In 373 BCE, animals including rats, weasels and snakes left the Greek city of Helice before an earthquake and tsunami:
    "For five days before Helike disappeared, all the mice and martens and snakes and centipedes and beetles and every other creature of that kind in the city left in a body by the road that leads to Keryneia." [quinque enim diebus priusquam pessum iret Helice, omnes in ea mures, mustelae, serpentes, scolopendrae verticilli, et alia hujusmodi animalia, magnis copiis exibat per viam, quae ducit Coriam] (Claudius Aelianus, De Natura Animalium, XI.19)

    Before the February 4 1975 earthquake at Haicheng, China, there were reports of anomalous animal behaviour, including among animals such as  rats, snakes appearing frozen on roads, cows and horses becoming restless and agitated, rats appearing drunk, chickens refusing to enter their coops and geese frequently taking flight (Adams RD, 1976Anon.,  1977)

    Since 2000 many studies have suggested that animals are sensitive to the electromagnetic changes before earthquakes.

    In 2003 Dr Kiyoshi Shimamura in Japan reported a jump in dog bites and other dog-related complaints before and after earthquakes. He examined records of complaints from public health centres affected by the 1995 earthquake in Kobe and found that accounts of dogs barking "excessively" went up by 18% on average in the months before the earthquake. Above the epicentre on Awaji Island, there was a 60% increase in complaints compared with a year earlier. (Alok Jha: "Can dogs really predict earthquakes?" Guardian, October 2 2003) 

    Another study concerned toads at L'Aquila, Italy, in 2009. Since then studies have included anomalous behaviors in many other animals, including ants, cows, pets such as cats and dogs, and milk yields in cows 340 km from the subsequent epicenter.

    ​​Ceteceans, such as whales and dolphins, show, through mass beachings, sensitivity to changes in electromagnetic energy, probably including geomagnetic changes before earthquakes:
        Klinowska M: "Cetacean live stranding sites relate to geomagnetic topography" 1985

    "It is my observation, confirmed over the years, that mass suicides of whales and dolphins that occur sporadically all over the world, are in someway related to change and disturbances in the electromagnetic field coordinates and possible realignments of geotectonic plates thereof."
        Dr Arunachalam Kumar, professor of anatomy, Kasturba Medical College, Mangalore, Karnataka, India,    
                        December 4 2004 (Michael McCarthy: "Did whale beaching foretell disaster?" February 2 2005)

    Toads may show sensitivity to changes in electromagnetic energy through changes in breeding patterns before earthquakes:

    “Our study is one of the first to document animal behaviour before, during and after an earthquake, It was a serendipitous thing that happened. One day there were no toads. I was actually very annoyed. I thought my research was all going down the drain. And the earthquake happened, and then they all started coming back the day after.”
        Rachel Grant, Open University, Milton Keynes, England, 2011

    Common toads (Bufo bufo) showed a dramatic change in behaviour five days before an earthquake shook L’Aquila, Italy in April 2009. Grant and her colleague found the toads abandoning spawning days before the shaking started. She has been studying frog reproduction during the lunar cycle for four years, and was at a site 74 km from the epicentre of the quake with her assistant between the new moons of March and April. This meant they were watching the ‘seismic toads’ before, during, and after the magnitude 6.3 event. Male toads usually stay at the breeding sites until spawning is complete, but 96% them abandoned the pool five days before the quake and numbers remained low until 10 days afterwards. The number of amplexed pairs—where males grasp females tightly with their arms—declined to zero just three days before the earthquake and stayed low until the last aftershock.
        (Janet Fang: "Toads ‘predict earthquakes’" Nature.com, March 31 2010)

    One suggested mechanism is ionization of the air at the ground-to-air interface where positive airborne ions cause changes in stress hormone levels in animals and humans. Another mechanism is the electric field and current induced in the animal as it passes through the magnetic field, or where a change in the magnetic field induces an electric field in the organism. It has been shown that magnetic fields of below 10 nT, well below the Earth's background magnetic field, can induce these currents and thus cause biological effects in sensitive animals.
    Some relevant studies:
    Kirschvink JL, 1982Klinowska M, 1985Kirschvink JL, 2000Grant RA et al, 2011; Berberich G et al, 2013Freund FT et al, 2013; Fidani C et al, 2014Yamauchi H et al, 2014

         bee foraging and failure to return to hive, perhaps related to colony collapse disorder (Liang CH et al, 2016). 

         birds unable to adapt to RF fields  (Wiltschko R et al, 2015).

         mice nesting show clockwise shift  (Malkemper EP et al, 2015).


  • Biological Mechanisms:

   Most of the mechanisms and pathways established for human Electromagnetic Sensitivity were first shown for animals such as rats and mice (see: Science - Mechanisms)

         Bees detect electric fields using mechanosensory hairs (Sutton GP et al, 2016)

         Two different magneto-reception systems have been proposed for bird and fish navigation:

               - bio-magnetite

               - cryptochromes

               - or possibly MagR, a protein combining both (Cyranoski D, 2015)

Marine sensitivity

The latest studies indicate that much marine life is sensitive to man-made electrical and sonar pollution.

1. There are three main sources:

(a) Cathodic currents used to slow marine corrosion on metal hulls of ships, pipe-lines, oil platform rigs, marine wind turbine installations, floating platforms.

(b) Microwave pulsed microwave radiation from ship and shore radar and communications.

(c) Sonar detection from military and fishing ships.

2. The effects on marine life include the following.

(a) Coral reef corrosion or oxidation, where calcium (a mineral or metal) carbonate structures are especially affected.

(b) Fish and cetaceans, which can be overheated by, for instance, lock-on radar systems.

(c) Fish and cetaceans, which can be adversely and cumulatively affected by low-level electrical currents induced by radar and radio frequency transmissions,

(d) Divers if not wearing dry suits, where approaching within 3,000 feet of a ship can cause cardiac arrest.

Animal sensitivity

1. Animals best suited to formulate EM exposure limits

Because animals are more easily studied objectively than humans, it has been suggested that their sensitivity could be used for formulating biological safety limits. This could be true for the Fruit Fly (Margaritis LH et al, 2014). 

2. Animal Electromagnetic Hyper-Sensitivity

A growing number of anecdotal reports show that the there are variations in the degree of sensitivity to electromagnetic exposure displayed by animals, just as there are among humans. This is an inevitable consequence of biological diversity even with a single species, including genetic variants and differences in diet, habitat and behavior. People with Electromagnetic Sensitivity often report that their pet cat or dog, if the animal is particularly sensitive to electromagnetic exposure, prefers to find an area of the house or yard for sleep which the use of an electronic meter shows is the area with the lowest level of electromagnetic pollution. Similarly, an especially sensitive pet avoids typically avoids areas with especially high electrosmog.

Need for new radiation limits to protect wildlife

Since wildlife is affected as much as humans by the high levels of man-made radiation on Earth, new biological non-thermal safety limits are needed to protect wildlife as well as humans.

Solar Biological Effects

For hundred of years it has been known that plants in particular show responses to solar electromagnetic events, such as the sunspot cycle. These effects are more difficult to detect in humans, but attempts through chronobiology often show similar patterns (Hrushesky WJM et al, 2011).

Lunar Biological Effects

A potentially important theory has recently been proposed (Bevington, 2015), that some lunar biological effects, which have been established since ancient times for most plants, some animals and some humans, may relate to variations in electromagnetic exposure at the phases of the lunar Full Moon at night, or at New Moon's lunar wake in daytime. If confirmed, this would explain many plant and animal observations, in addition to human behavioral and medical changes among those especially sensitive to electromagnetic exposure.