We tested the hypothesis that cetaceans use weak anomalies in the geomagnetic field as cues for orientation, navigation and/or piloting. Using the positions of 212 stranding events of live animals in the Smith sonian compilation which fall within the boundaries of the USGS East-Coast Aeromagnetic Survey, we found that there are highly significant tendencies for cetaceans to beach themselves near coastal locations with local magnetic minima. Monte-Carlo simulations confirm the significance of these effects. These results suggest that cetaceans have a magnetic sensory systemcomparable to that in other migratory and homing animals, and predict that the magnetic topography and in particular the marine magnetic lineations may play an important role in guiding long-distance migration. The ‘map’ sense of migratoryanimals may therefore be largely based on a simple strategy of following paths of local magnetic minima and avoiding magnetic gradients.
- © 1986 by Company of Biologists