Baby salmon use the earth’s magnetic field to figure out which way is up

Salmon are capable of using the Earth’s magnetic field as a part of their built-in navigating skills to home back to their streams of birth. Now it has been discovered that young salmon emerging from the gravel also use the Earth’s magnetic field to figure out which way is up. Salmon eggs are laid in gravel nests, and the young salmon remain in the gravel until all of the attached yolk reserves are finished, then they emerge to live out in the open water. In lab experiments, scientists were able to determine that the direction of emergence from the gravel depended on the Earth’s magnetic field: when this was disrupted or reversed in the laboratory, the young salmon were much less likely to move upwards and out of the gravel beds. The new work was coauthored by SAFS Professor Tom Quinn, who first had the idea decades previously during his PhD studies, and appears in the journal Biology Letters.

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