Science progresses by a process called hypothesis testing, which involves proposing an idea and then subjecting it to experimental tests. However, someone has to initially propose scientifically plausible hypotheses for this process to work. Prof. Kirschvink has originated several such ideas aimed at increasing our understanding of how biological evolution has influenced, and has been influenced by, major events on the surface of the Earth. In more-or-less chronological order, the major contributions include:

Dr. Joseph Kirschvink

blebs in the Martian meteorite ALH84001

from 4.0 billion-year-old carbonate

Oldest reported magneto fossils

Typical chains of biogenic magnetite

from magnetotactic bacteria

Bullet-shaped magnetosomes

in eukaryotic algae

Magnetosome chains from

the frontal tissues of chinook salmon

The idea that the magnetic field sensitivity in animals might be due to small chains of the same biogenic magnetite functioning as specialized sensory organelles; this work has provided a solid biophysical basis for understanding magnetic effects on animal behavior, and has actually led to the discovery of candidate sensory organs in higher animals.
Click to read more about magnetite-based magnetoreception.

Another major idea is that biogenic magnetite produced by the magnetotactic bacteria (“magnetofossils”) might be responsible for the magnetization of some sedimentarty rocks; these magnetofossils now provide the strongest evidence for early life on the planet Mars.
Click to read more about the magnetofossils, from Mars to Earth?

for early life on the planet Mars

the strongest evidence

Magnetofossils now provide

Sedimentary rocks on Mars to Earth

Teeth of chitons

Snowball Earth

Possibly the worst climatic disasters

in Earth history


An idea that is generating much interest recently is that the entire Earth may have actually frozen over several times in Earth history, resembling a “Snowball”, potentially causing some of the most severe criseses is history of life on Earth and perhaps stimulating evolution.
Click to read more about The Snowball Earth Hypothesis. (Possibly the worst climatic disasters in Earth history)

Another original concept is that the Cambrian Evolutionary explosion may have been precipitated in part by large burst of true polar wander, in which the Earth’s rotational axis moved to the equator in a geologically short interval to of time. Take a look at an animation of the Cambrian Evolutionary Explosion, and the Inertial Interchange True Polar Wander Hypothesis.

Magnetite crystal extracted from

tissues of the human brain

of the Cambrian Explosion

Geological Record

And, that the burst of biomineralization observed in the fossil record at the Cambrian Explosion may have resulted from the evolutionary exaptation of the magnetite biomineralization system. A common thread in all of these efforts is the study of paleomagnetism and rock magnetism, for which the Kirschvink group maintains laboratories dedicated to the study of weakly magnetic biological and geological materials.
Click to read more about The Grand Unified Theory of Biomineralization

Asteriod 27711 Kirschvink

Click here for the current location of Asteriod 27711 Kirschvink, a member of the Phocaea family with an unusually high eccentricity, orbiting between Mars and Jupiter, with a magnitude of 15, about 3 km in diameter.

Professor Joe Kirschvink is also known as the real Iron Man!. Joe has found crystals of magnetite in the human brain that closely resemble those found in certain bacteria.

Prof. Kirschvink delivered the Carl Sagan Memorial Lecture at the 2001 American Geophysical Union Fall meeting in San Francisco.

Caltech’s Joseph Kirschvink Receives Feynman Prize for Excellence in Teaching

Joe won the William Gilbert Award from the American Geophysical Union!!

It’s part of our evolutionary history.
Magneto reception may be the primal sense.

Read the book

Joe Kirschvink