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Unraveling The Glass Eels That Use Magnetism To Guide Them

First Posted: Jun 14, 2017 04:50 AM EDT
The Incredible Migratory Odyssey Of European Glass Eels
European glass eels use magnetism to help guide them in their migration.
(Photo : Fishlarvae.org/YouTube screenshot)

Scientists discovered that the European eels or also known as glass eels use magnetism to help guide them in their migration. These critically endangered fish live in the rivers or estuaries across Europe and North Africa.

The findings of the discovery were published in the journal Science Advances on Friday. The study was led by researchers from the Norwegian Institute of Marine Research's Austevoll Research Station and the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science. The scientists discovered that the glass eels (Anguilla anguilla) faced different directions based on whether the tide was flowing in or out, according to The New York Times.

In the study, the team found that the glass eels can detect the magnetic field of Earth and use it just like a compass to lead themselves toward the coast, which is their home. Claire Paris, the senior author of the study and a professor from the UM Rosenstiel School, said that this study is an important factor to understand the mechanisms of eel migration and other species. They found that their magnetic orientation is similarly controlled by a biological clock.

Meanwhile, Alessandro Cresci, the lead author of the study from the UM Rosenstiel School, described the finding as incredible as these glass eels could detect the Earth's magnetic field. He further said that the use of a magnetic compass could be a key in underlying the amazing migration of this type of animal. He added that this is the first observation of glass eels keeping a compass as they swim in shelf waters.

The scientists observed the glass eels in a semi-enclosed circular aquarium known as Drifting In-Situ Chamber (DISC). They also conducted an orientation behavior analysis using a magnetoreception test facility known as the "MagLab." The glass eels were exposed to artificially manipulated magnetic field like that the E-W and N-S axes were swung by 90 degrees, according to Phys.org.

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