Baby Eels Migrate by Following Magnetic Fields

Alessandro Cresci
Alessandro Cresci

Baby eels have joined the ever-growing club of animals that live their lives along magnetic lines. Researchers described these findings in the journal Scientific Advances.

Our planet and its inhabitants are shaped and impelled by invisible forces. Studies have found that foxes hunt and deer flee along north-south lines. Pigs and wild boars orient their nests to face the same way. Lobsters, butterflies, and whales all follow their internal compasses along magnetic lines. Adult European eels, too. But we weren’t really sure about their babies.

Grown-up European eels lay their many eggs in the Sargasso Sea. The eggs hatch into helpless larvae, which bob along in Atlantic currents. As the currents approach the continent, the babies transform again, this time into translucent miniature versions of their parents. These glass eels make their way into the coasts. From there, they swim inland to freshwater and bum around Europe and North Africa for five to 20 years. Finally, as adults, they head back to the sea to start the whole cycle all over again. It's one of the longest migrations in the animal kingdom, the researchers say.

Adult European eels are tough and can migrate short distances over land.Caroline Durif

It’s an impressive feat for the little noodles, and scientists wondered how they pull it off. To find out, researchers scooped up a group of newly arrived baby eels on the coast of Norway. They put the eels in a large chamber inside a fjord and let them swim there for a full tidal phase, watching how the eels positioned their bodies and how they swam.

Next, they brought the eels into the lab and repeated the tide-long observation process.

Unsurprisingly, the little tykes knew exactly what they were doing. They consistently turned their bodies to run parallel with magnetic lines, but the direction of those lines varied depending on the phase of the tides. When the tide went out to sea, the majority of eels swam southward, whether in the fjord or in the lab.

These findings are as fascinating as they are vital, as, for all its ingenuity, the European eel is critically endangered. Understanding this animal’s extraordinary life cycle could help conservationists find ways to protect it better in the future.

Take Advantage of Amazon's Early Black Friday Deals on Tech, Kitchen Appliances, and More

Amazon
Amazon

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

Even though Black Friday is still a few days away, Amazon is offering early deals on kitchen appliances, tech, video games, and plenty more. We will keep updating this page as sales come in, but for now, here are the best Amazon Black Friday sales to check out.

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Instant Pot/Amazon

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Pretty in Pink: Drone Captures Birds-Eye View of Massive Flamingo Flock in Kazakhstan

MORAN, Unsplash
MORAN, Unsplash

Flamingos sport some of the most eye-catching plumage in the animal kingdom. Their diet of beta-carotene-rich plankton and crustaceans produces a distinctive pink hue that's hard to miss. One flamingo is striking on its own, but the birds are even more impressive as a crowd, as demonstrated by the footage below.

As Fox 13 Tampa Bay reports, Azamat Sarsenbayev used a drone to capture this video of flamingos congregating on Lake Karakol near Aktau, Kazakhstan. A flamingo flock (also called a flamboyance) can contain up to several hundred birds. Flamingos do a lot together, including mating displays. From above, everyday life for a flamingo makes for a breathtaking, candy-colored spectacle.

This footage was taken during the species' migration south. By the end of their journey, the birds will likely be settled in the Khazar nature reserve or even farther south in Iran. After checking out the video, read up on these fascinating facts about flamingos.

[h/t Fox 13]