How It Works

Loggerhead sea turtles guided by magnetic navigation

Research from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill that was published in Current Biology on April 12th has revealed vital insights that may be able to improve conservation efforts of the loggerhead sea turtles. The project led by biologists Kenneth J. Lohmann and J. Roger Brothers has reported that species nesting on beaches with similar magnetic fields are genetically similar to one another. The paper suggests that the strongest predictor of genetic similarity are magnetic fields appear in the nesting areas of the sea turtles, which seems regardless of how close the beaches are to one another or how similar the environment of the areas. Previous research from the biologists has seen that adult loggerheads use the magnetic fields of the each to find their way back to the place they hatched themselves when it comes to laying their own eggs. It has also been demonstrated that turtles can mistakenly nest at different beaches if they have a similar magnetic field, even if that beach is physically far away from the one they had intended to reach.

“Loggerhead sea turtles are fascinating creatures that begin their lives by migrating alone across the Atlantic Ocean and back. Eventually, they return to nest on the beach where they hatched – or else, as it turns out, on a beach with a very similar magnetic field,” commented Kenneth Lohmann in a press release. “This is an important new insight into how sea turtles navigate during their long-distance migrations. It might have important applications for the conservation of sea turtles, as well as other migratory animals such as salmon, sharks and certain birds.”

The findings suggest that conservation efforts should take into consideration human activity that could interfere with magnetic fields, such as the building of sea walls, large buildings on the beach front, and powerlines.


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