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Loggerhead Turtle Navigation

How do turtles navigate thousands of miles through the world's oceans? According to recent research, Loggerhead Turtles appear to have an in-built Sat Nav Global Positioning System. Brett Westwood went to the Royal Institute of Navigation conference to hear more from Dr Kenneth Lohmann.

Leatherback Turtle by Jody Bourton

Loggerhead Navigation

Loggerhead Turtles use magnetic fields to navigate

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Back in March, Team WOtM joined the Large Pelagics Research team off the coast of Georgia as they tried to catch a turtle that they could attach a tracking device to. The Leatherback Turtle migration is under way but the question remains: just how do these animals know where they are going?

Dr Kenneth Lohmann has been looking at the migration of Loggerhead Turtles in order to answer this question. He is advancing the theory that they are guided by the earth's magnetic fields. Different locations across the planet have different magnetic fields and as such, each area has a distinct magnetic field signature. Loggerhead Turtles inherit a set of instructions that therefore tell them what to do when they encounter specific magnetic fields. To prove his theory, Dr Lohmann managed to simulate the magnetic field conditions off southern Portugal and witnessed a turtle react and navigate"south" as it would do in the wild.

Truly astonishing and ground-breaking science.

Dr Kenneth Lohmann was at the Royal Institute of Navigation and you can hear all the talks here.

There is also an interesting article on navigation in the Independent. Steve Connor spoke to Professor Peter Hore, a physical chemist at Oxford University, who thinks photochemical reactions allow birds to use the Earth's weak magnetic field.

Further Reading:

Next report: Tagging Jellyfish
Last report: Review of our attempts to tag a Leatherback

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