With a little help from magnetic fields and a grandpa (not theirs), baby turtles find their way.
Grandpa found some baby turtles on his doorstep. So he took 'em to the ocean ... and it got adorable.
I stumbled upon this video called "Funny Grandpa Releasing Sea Turtles."
In case you were unsure, it's a video of a funny grandpa releasing sea turtles. And it's pretty adorable:
Of course, the cute part is that they're babies. And they are being released by a grandpa who is as in love with baby turtles as I am.
But the part that really blew my mind: Despite being adorable tiny babies, they know exactly where to go!
And they know exactly what to do! I didn't understand how a bunch of baby turtles being let go into the big, bad world somehow all instinctively knew which direction to swim. So I did some digging to find the answer to one simple question:
How is that happening? And here was the pretty amazing answer:
Magnetic FIELDS, more specifically.
You know how your compass always knows where true north is? It's kinda like that, only inside a baby turtle. These guys are moving along with geomagnetic field lines (think latitude and longitude lines) that communicate to the turtles what latitude they're on.
Scientists who study these lil' dudes can't FULLY explain how these turtles are belly flopping onto the beach and making it happen, but they do have some good leads.
One experiment released turtle hatchlings at different latitudes. The result? They changed directions to swim toward their normal migratory pattern. These results essentially mean that those turtles were approximating their own latitude.
But how are they doing it? What's going ON?! This is when the story got deep. And it brought me to the slugs.
A promising sea slug with a simple and easy-to-study nervous system might hold the secret clue. The mollusk called Tritonia diomedea.
Studies show that this slug has neurons in its brain that respond to changes in magnetic fields. And those neurons appear to be attached to the motor neurons that tell that slug where it is and where it wants to go.
Its brain is essentially a compass!
The turtle nervous system is WAY more complex than the sea slug, but these specific neurons are the beginning of figuring out how it works!
Loggerhead turtles aren't the only animals that use the earth's magnetic field for navigation. Others include honeybees, homing pigeons, trout, and whales! Additional studies suggest salmon (and lobsters) and dolphins (and deer and bats) could be on the list too. :)
How cool is nature, huh?? It uses sea slug technology (we think!) to teach infant turtles how to go into the ocean and survive. Ya gotta respect that.
*High-fives Mother Earth*
And that is how I ended up watching "Funny Grandpa Releasing Sea Turtles" with a newfound appreciation for nature and science and, yes, slugs.