March 6, 2007 | David F. Coppedge

Turtles Hurtle Through the Sea Magnetically

Experiments on sea turtles have shown that they follow the earth’s magnetic field to the exact beach where they were born to lay their eggs.  “It is almost as if they were equipped with a compass pointing towards the beach in question,” says an article on EurekAlert.  “So they can correct any deflection they are subject to: transport by boat, ocean currents…”  Like a guiding beacon, the field keeps them on track even when ocean currents carry them far off course.  The researchers feel that other cues, like smell, may also guide them home.
    The film Life’s Story 2 from Exploration Films shows footage of sea turtles laying their eggs and the young finding their way to the water.

The sea is a mighty big place to get lost.  One beach on a coastline is a mere speck from hundreds of miles out in the ocean.  Who put a compass in a turtle’s head?  Who gave them all the hardware and software to transport their bulky bodies thousands of miles to home base?  Who gave them the ability to dig and lay eggs?  Who taught the babies when to hatch at high tide, and make their way to the water?  How many trillions of turtles had to sink to the bottom or die of beach sunburn while mutations did their random walk through possibility space?  The marine biologists are looking for a few good minds.

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