There are some organisms that can generate electricity (eels, for example). And some others can detect magnetic fields and use it for navigation (birds, for example):

But, is it possible for an organic entity to generate a steady magnetic field somehow by means of organic functions?

  • $\begingroup$ Does the magnitude of the field matter? $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Nov 30 '18 at 21:03
  • $\begingroup$ Not really. I just want to know the feasibility, and then I will figure out how to amplify the effect in my creature. (For example, the electricity produced by the eels cells is just 100 mV, but all the cells together make the 500 V they can discharge). scientificamerican.com/article/how-do-electric-eels-gene $\endgroup$ – Carlos Zamora Nov 30 '18 at 21:16
  • $\begingroup$ Steady as in allways-on or steady as in non-varying? Because humans (and actually all animals which have muscles and nerves) are known to put out a weak alternating electromagnetic field; see EEG and EKG. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Nov 30 '18 at 21:19
  • $\begingroup$ @Carlos Zamora Am I going to need to change my answer? Is it for camoflage or some other worldbuilding possibility? $\endgroup$ – Tantalus' touch. Nov 30 '18 at 21:24

Yes. All the time.

Creatures regularly use bioelectrical fields within their bodies. Cells can pump ions into and out of tissues using energy. These ions are charged, and their movements produce electrical charge. If there is steady movement of ions from one area to another, an electrical current is formed. A example is the electrical field formed when a wound happens.


How are the electric fields at a wound produced? Epithelia actively pump and differentially segregate ions. In the cornea epithelium, for example, Na+ and K+ are transported inwards from tear fluid to extracellular fluid, and Cl− is transported out of the extracellular fluid into the tear fluid. The epithelial cells are connected by tight junctions, forming the major electrical resistive barrier, and thus establishing an electrical gradient across the epithelium – the transepithelial potential (TEP).[129][130] Breaking the epithelial barrier, as occurs in any wounds, creates a hole that breaches the high electrical resistance established by the tight junctions in the epithelial sheet, short-circuiting the epithelium locally. The TEP therefore drops to zero at the wound. However, normal ion transport continues in unwounded epithelial cells beyond the wound edge (typically <1 mm away), driving positive charge flow out of the wound and establishing a steady, laterally-oriented electric field (EF) with the cathode at the wound. Skin also generates a TEP, and when a skin wound is made, similar wound electric currents and fields arise, until the epithelial barrier function recovers to terminate the short-circuit at the wound.

Any electrical current will generate a magnetic field.

induced magnetic field\ http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/hbase/magnetic/Biosav.html

So bioelectric currents will produce magnetic fields around them.

  • $\begingroup$ This. This is the correct answer. $\endgroup$ – The Square-Cube Law Dec 1 '18 at 0:08
  • $\begingroup$ This is exactly why I asked about magnitude. $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Dec 1 '18 at 8:58
  • $\begingroup$ so as long as one keeps cutting oneself, one has a steady magnetic field. :) all nerve conduction involves ion flow across membranes - but would we call any of that 'steady' in terms of duration, magnitude or orientation - maybe i'm reading too much into the word steady. $\endgroup$ – theRiley Dec 1 '18 at 9:51

Is it possible for an organic species to generate a steady magnetic field?


The human body cannot rid itself of extra iron. Over time, these excesses build up in major organs such as the heart, liver, pancreas, joints, and pituitary.

Iron is ferromagnetic in it's metalic elemental state

is the basic mechanism by which certain materials (such as iron or iron oxides) form permanent magnets, or are attracted to magnets.


Skin color changes (normaly noted as hyperpigmentation in the condition): Deposits of iron (compounds) in skin cells can make your skin appear bronze or gray in color.

But can magnets lose their attraction? Yes, but:

it is metastable, and can persist for long periods, as shown by samples of magnetite from the sea floor which have maintained their magnetization for millions of years.

As far as I can find, there is no current example of a magnetised organism (or organism which emits no electromagnetism) existing. But if somehow hemochromatosis, and increased skin pigments of magnetic material were to be advantageous to survival and reproductive success, then yes, it would be possible that such an organism could evolve, over sufficient time.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ All animals which have muscles and nerves emit a weak electromagnetic field. It's a side effect of the electrochemical mechanism used by the nervous system to transmit neural impulses. That's why, for example, electrocardiograms (EKG) and electroencephalograms (EEG) work. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Nov 30 '18 at 21:17
  • $\begingroup$ @AlexP true, however I took the word "steady" in the question to mean a monopolar one,, ie. not inductive - perhaps the OP has camoflage in mind - it wasn't specified. :) $\endgroup$ – Tantalus' touch. Nov 30 '18 at 21:20
  • $\begingroup$ I put a comment to the question asking what they mean by "steady". Anyway, some birds, e.g. pigeons, have small pieces of magnetite in their beaks etc. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Nov 30 '18 at 21:22
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    $\begingroup$ Just being iron is not enough to be magnetic. There must also be hardness to keep the molecules pointing in 1 direction, This is why if you melt a magnet, it will instantly stop being magnetic as the molecules will turn to assume a random pattern against the magnetic field $\endgroup$ – Andrey Nov 30 '18 at 21:28
  • $\begingroup$ @Andrey That's somewhat true, but have you seen: thoughtco.com/how-to-make-liquid-magnets-606319 $\endgroup$ – Tantalus' touch. Nov 30 '18 at 21:30


I would also add that in theory if an animal lives in an iron rich environment, eats iron or manganese or nickel or something and also has charged ions around it, from lightning storm, etc. it is possible for such a ‘moving’ body to create a magnetic field.

You also might want to consider radiactive elements and static electricity.


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