New study finds genetic evidence that magnetic navigation guides loggerhead sea turtles

April 12, 2018, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
An olive ridley sea turtle, a species of the sea turtle superfamily. Credit: Thierry Caro/Wikipedia

New research from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill provides valuable insight into the navigation and nesting behaviors of loggerhead sea turtles that could inform future conservation efforts. Loggerhead sea turtles that nest on beaches with similar magnetic fields are genetically similar to one another, according to a new study by UNC-Chapel Hill biologists Kenneth J. Lohmann and J. Roger Brothers.

The study will publish in the journal Current Biology on April 12.

Key takeaways include:

  • Magnetic fields are the strongest predictor of genetic similarity among nesting loggerhead sea turtles, regardless of the geographic proximity or environmental traits of nesting beaches.
  • The findings support previous research from Lohmann and Brothers, which indicated that adult loggerhead sea turtles use magnetic fields to find their way back to the where they themselves hatched. The new research implies that sometimes the turtles mistakenly nest at a different beach with a similar , even if that beach is geographically far away from the beach on which they hatched - like on the opposite coast of Florida.
  • Conservation efforts should note the importance of a beach's magnetic for attracting loggerhead sea turtles. Sea walls, power lines and large beachfront buildings may alter the magnetic fields that turtles encounter.

"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," said Kenneth Lohmann, professor of biology in the College of Arts and Sciences at UNC-Chapel Hill. "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 , as well as other migratory animals such as salmon, sharks and certain birds."

Lohmann and Brothers are available for interviews if you'd like to arrange a time to learn more.

Explore further: For sea turtles, there's no place like magnetic home

Related Stories

For sea turtles, there's no place like magnetic home

January 15, 2015

Adult sea turtles find their way back to the beaches where they hatched by seeking out unique magnetic signatures along the coast, according to new evidence from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Over 100 endangered turtles hatch in Singapore

January 23, 2018

Over 100 baby turtles have hatched on a Singapore beach before being released into the sea, authorities said Tuesday, in a boost for the critically endangered creatures.

Sea turtles set new nesting records in US

September 7, 2015

Sea turtle experts along the southeastern U.S. coast say new nesting numbers reinforce their belief that loggerhead sea turtles are making a comeback after 37 years of protection as a threatened species under the federal ...

Recommended for you

The powerful meteor that no one saw (except satellites)

March 19, 2019

At precisely 11:48 am on December 18, 2018, a large space rock heading straight for Earth at a speed of 19 miles per second exploded into a vast ball of fire as it entered the atmosphere, 15.9 miles above the Bering Sea.

Revealing the rules behind virus scaffold construction

March 19, 2019

A team of researchers including Northwestern Engineering faculty has expanded the understanding of how virus shells self-assemble, an important step toward developing techniques that use viruses as vehicles to deliver targeted ...

OSIRIS-REx reveals asteroid Bennu has big surprises

March 19, 2019

A NASA spacecraft that will return a sample of a near-Earth asteroid named Bennu to Earth in 2023 made the first-ever close-up observations of particle plumes erupting from an asteroid's surface. Bennu also revealed itself ...

Nanoscale Lamb wave-driven motors in nonliquid environments

March 19, 2019

Light driven movement is challenging in nonliquid environments as micro-sized objects can experience strong dry adhesion to contact surfaces and resist movement. In a recent study, Jinsheng Lu and co-workers at the College ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.