Adult female sea turtles are literally magnetically drawn to the comforting beaches where they were hatched, finds new research.
What's more, scientists suspect that tiny magnetic particles in sea turtle brains enable them to detect unique magnetic signatures given off by beaches, such that they can return to them after ultra long journeys.
Photos: Lost Years of Sea Turtles Uncovered
The findings, published in the latest issue of the journal Current Biology, help solve a long-standing mystery.
"Sea turtles migrate across thousands of miles of ocean before returning to nest on the same stretch of coastline where they hatched, but how they do this has mystified scientists for more than fifty years," co-author J. Roger Brothers of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, said in a press release.
"Our results," continued Brothers, "provide evidence that turtles imprint on the unique magnetic field of their natal beach as hatchlings and then use this information to return as adults."
Prior research determined that sea turtles use the Earth's magnetic field as a guide while out at sea. It wasn't clear, though, whether adult female turtles also used this technique to identify and return to the nesting sites chosen by their mothers.