After travelling for thousands of miles into the sea, the sea turtles mysteriously return to the beaches where they were hatched- this ability of theirs to find their way back to their home beaches has baffled the scientists for many years. More so because the open ocean from where they get back after two to three years is vast and bereft of any features which could make it easier for these creatures to find their way back.
The scientists are now beginning to believe that the answer to his behavior among these reptiles, referred to as ‘natal homing,’ can be attributed to the string geomagnetic field of the Earth.
Though past studies have hinted at the turtles using the magnetic signatures of our planet to navigate the open seas and get back without any difficulty for a long time but there was no evidence to support their theory.
“Sea turtles migrate across thousands of miles of ocean before returning to nest on the same stretch of coastline where they hatched, but how they do this has mystified scientists for more than fifty years,” said J. Roger Brothers of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
“Our results provide evidence that turtles imprint on the unique magnetic field of their natal beach as hatchlings and then use this information to return as adults.”
“We reasoned that if turtles use the magnetic field to find their natal beaches, then naturally occurring changes in the Earth’s field might influence where turtles nest,” Brothers said.
The researchers who were a part of this study observed that even the smallest of changes in the magnetic field of the Earth affects the place at which a loggerhead sea turtle buries its eggs on the coast of Florida. They took this to mean that the hypothesis proposed by them is correct.
It is very important for nestling turtles to get back to the places where they were hatched because they need very specific environmental features like soft sand and optimum temperatures to hatch, fewer predators and easy access.
“The only way a female turtle can be sure that she is nesting in a place favorable for egg development is to nest on the same beach where she hatched,” Brothers concluded. “The logic of sea turtles seems to be that ‘if it worked for me, it should work for my offspring.”
Though the scientists have offered this as an explanations from their observations, more research is required before anything can be said for sure. These findings were published in the journal Current Biology.