Regional Magnetic Fields as Navigational Markers for Sea Turtles

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Science  12 Oct 2001:
Vol. 294, Issue 5541, pp. 364-366
DOI: 10.1126/science.1064557

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Young loggerhead sea turtles (Caretta caretta) from eastern Florida undertake a transoceanic migration in which they gradually circle the north Atlantic Ocean before returning to the North American coast. Here we report that hatchling loggerheads, when exposed to magnetic fields replicating those found in three widely separated oceanic regions, responded by swimming in directions that would, in each case, help keep turtles within the currents of the North Atlantic gyre and facilitate movement along the migratory pathway. These results imply that young loggerheads have a guidance system in which regional magnetic fields function as navigational markers and elicit changes in swimming direction at crucial geographic boundaries.

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