APR 16, 2018 03:37 AM PDT

Geomagnetic Imprinting Helps Loggerhead Sea Turtles Navigate Home

WRITTEN BY: Anthony Bouchard
4 2 174

Loggerhead sea turtles often return to the same beaches they were born at (give or take a 50-mile margin of error) following several decades. Animal experts have long wondered how and why they do this, but a new study conducted by researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill may provide some valuable insight.

A loggerhead sea turtle.

Image Credit: Pixabay

Reporting in the journal Current Biology, the researchers discuss their findings after analyzing 800 different genetic records from nesting loggerhead sea turtles in Florida. As it would seem, this long-unexplained phenomenon could have something to do with Earth’s magnetic fields.

Related: Not just for swimming; sea turtles use their flippers to handle their prey too

Just like a bevy of other wild animals, loggerhead sea turtles sense planetary magnetic fields and react accordingly for navigation purposes. On the other hand, the study underscores significant genetic similarities between loggerheads born in nearby or related areas. The unexpected findings have implications for how loggerheads navigate back home after so long.

“We expect that geographically close locations will be genetically related, and geographically distant locations will have distinct populations. That’s not what we see,” said sea turtle expert J. Roger Brothers, the first author of the study.

“The variation in earth’s magnetic field around the nesting area seems to really predict genetic differentiation much better than geographic distance.”

Related: Are sea turtle conservation efforts actually working?

Given how the loggerheads seem to be programmed from birth to recognize the specific geomagnetic signature of their birthplace, the researchers have righteously coined the seemingly-innate ability “geomagnetic imprinting.”

But with such precise magnetic field-based sensory perception, why is it that some loggerhead sea turtles wind up navigating up to 50 miles away from their original birthplace? One theory attributes this navigational miscalculation to the way the magnetic fields bleed across the peninsula.

Related: United States Coast Guard frees sea turtle from a floating bundle of cocaine worth over $53 million

It’s worth noting that this research needs further expansion before animal experts can make assumptions about loggerhead sea turtle behavior. The results were reached purely via genetic evidence rather than actions, and so more research concerning loggerhead behavior is needed to validate them.

It should be interesting to see whether any future studies will surface to answer all the remaining questions.

Source: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

About the Author
  • Fascinated by scientific discoveries and media, Anthony found his way here at LabRoots, where he would be able to dabble in the two. Anthony is a technology junkie that has vast experience in computer systems and automobile mechanics, as opposite as those sound.
You May Also Like
APR 23, 2018
Earth & The Environment
APR 23, 2018
Are grasslands on the decline?
Grasslands cover about a quarter of the world’s land and are the most agriculturally important biome. Though they have many names (prairies, pampas,
JUN 05, 2018
Videos
JUN 05, 2018
Gauging Animal Intelligence is No Easy Task
Researchers are continually attempting to gauge intelligence in animals by putting them through various tests. These tests are designed to recognize intell
JUN 06, 2018
Technology
JUN 06, 2018
Using Old Cell Phones to Fight Illegal Logging in the Rainforest
The nonprofit Rainforest Connection invented a new way to monitor rainforests for logging.
JUN 21, 2018
Videos
JUN 21, 2018
Better think twice before you bite
 
JUL 03, 2018
Plants & Animals
JUL 03, 2018
'Self-destruct switch' may let plants turn genes on and off quickly
The repressive structures that plants use to keep genes turned off involves a potential self-destruct switch, a new study suggests. The findings offer insi
JUL 07, 2018
Videos
JUL 07, 2018
Can Sending Plants to Space Reveal a Cancer Treatment?
When plants are grown in a totally different environment, it may stimulate new effects.
Loading Comments...