Orientation in Pill Bugs: An Interdisciplinary Activity to Engage Students in Concepts of Biology, Physics & Circular Statistics


Journal Article

© 2018 National Association of Biology Teachers. All rights reserved. We present a novel laboratory activity to introduce students to experimental approaches often used by biologists to study orientation in animals. We first provide an overview of the current understanding of magnetoreception-the ability of some organisms to sense magnetic fields. We then outline an exercise that uses common pill bugs (Armadillidium vulgare) to examine whether a pulsed magnetic field affects their directional preference. The first part of the experiment includes the construction and visual testing of a pulse magnetizer built using low-cost and easily obtainable materials. Afterward, students examine the orientation of pill bugs both before and after being subjected to a magnetic pulse. Finally, students analyze their results with circular statistics using the open-source R coding platform, providing them experience in coding languages and statistical analysis. The interdisciplinary and biophysical nature of this experiment engages students in concepts of electromagnetic induction, magnetism, animal behavior, and statistics.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Fitak, RR; Caves, EM; Johnsen, S

Published Date

  • October 1, 2018

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 80 / 8

Start / End Page

  • 608 - 618

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0002-7685

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1525/abt.2018.80.8.608

Citation Source

  • Scopus