New study uncovers ‘magnetic’ memory of European glass eels

Science Daily –

A new study led by researchers at the University of Miami (UM) Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and at the Institute of Marine Research in Norway found that European glass eels use their magnetic sense to “imprint” a memory of the direction of water currents in the estuary where they become juveniles. This is the first direct evidence that a species of fish uses its internal magnetic compass to form a memory of current direction.

“It’s an important step forward in understanding the migratory behavior of the commercially important European eel and in expanding our knowledge of the orientation mechanisms that fish use to migrate,” said Alessandro Cresci, a Ph.D. student at the UM Rosenstiel School and first author of the paper. “This research should provide awareness that tiny young eels can accomplish incredible tasks to migrate.”

The European eel (Anguilla anguilla) is a migratory species that crosses the Atlantic Ocean twice during its life. After hatching in the Sargasso Sea, eel larvae move more than 5,000 kilometers with the Gulf Stream until reaching the continental slope of Europe. There, they metamorphose into the post-larval transparent glass eel and continue the migration across the continental shelf to the coast.

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