Elephant seals have internal GPS which they use for migration

Elephant seals have a sense that works like an internal GPS to guide their migration to their breeding beaches each year, according to researchers at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

What there is to know

  • Pregnant female elephant seals spend 240 days a year feeding over thousands of miles across the eastern North Pacific Ocean before returning to their reception areas for giving birth.

  • the elephant seals venture up to 10,000 kilometers from their breeding beaches but seems to have an internal sense of the cardknowing exactly how far they are from where they need to go and when to go home.

  • Elephant seals give birth within 5 days of returning to their home beaches.

  • Satellite tracking of 100 female elephant seals has shown that they returned to the same ranges year after year with very little variation in the dates of arrival and departure of migrants.

  • the elephant seals travel independently, each covering very different areas at sea with radically different daily routines, but all share the same instinct of coming home a few days before birth.

This is a summary of the article “Elephant Seals Time Their Long-distance Migrations Using a Map Sense”, published by Cell Press on February 28. The full article can be found on Current Biology.

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