50 years in the past, eels’ navigation expertise electrified scientists


Does the eel use electrical fields to navigate? — Science Information, June 24, 1972

Many species of ocean fish [such as American eels] migrate over massive distances. A few of them accomplish that with such excessive accuracy that they will come hundreds of miles to return to the stream or space the place they have been born. Naturalists naturally surprise how they do it. One of many strategies is that they use electrical energy.


It’s nonetheless a thriller how the American eel (Anguilla rostrata) navigates to its breeding grounds. However a rising physique of proof has shifted focus from electrical energy to magnetic fields. Experiments counsel that the American eel’s European cousin, A. anguilla, appears to observe a magnetic map to the North Atlantic’s Sargasso Sea, guided by an inside compass (SN On-line: 4/13/17). In March, scientists proposed that freshly spawned A­merican and European eels observe paths of accelerating magnetic depth from the Sargasso Sea to their freshwater houses. As adults, the eels could sense lowering depth to retrace the trail to their birthplace.


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