Laboratory experiments were conducted to test the ability of loggerhead sea turtle hatchlings (Caretta caretta L.) to orient using the magnetic field of the earth. Hatchlings were tethered to a rotatable lever-arm apparatus which tracked swimming orientation in complete darkness. Hatchlings tested in the earth's magnetic field were nonrandomly oriented with a mean angle of 42 degrees; those tested under an earth-strength field with a reversed horizontal component were also nonrandomly oriented, but with a mean angle of 196 degrees. The distributions under the two magnetic field conditions were significantly different, indicating that loggerhead sea turtle hatchlings can detect the magnetic field of the earth and use it as a cue in orientation.
- © 1991 by Company of Biologists