From: NOAA
Published April 18, 2017 08:32 AM

Cracking the code of a long-distance swimmer

Born in the Sargasso Sea, that Atlantic Ocean gyre east of Bermuda, baby European eels will travel 4,000 miles to the freshwater rivers of Europe. Now scientists might have answered a century-old question of how these young eels accomplish such vast oceanic migrations.

They use a GPS. But not like the one in your car or smartphone.

European eels have a sort of internal GPS or global positioning system tuned to the Earth’s magnetic field, according to research appearing today in the journal Current Biology.

“With this study, we show for the first time how eels actually use Earth’s magnetic field as a map to orient themselves during their long ocean journeys,” said Nathan Putman, lead author and scientist at NOAA’s Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory and the Cooperative Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Studies at the University of Miami.

 

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Photo via NOAA.

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