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Magnetic Sixth Sense: Eels Can Sense Magnetic Fields [VIDEO]

Update Date: Apr 15, 2017 11:37 PM EDT

Biologists may have found the answer to the enigma how adult eels from Europe and the northeast United States travel to breeding grounds in the Sargasso Sea and back to their respective coastlines. The eels can sense magnetic fields.

The magnetic sixth sense has been shown to exist in studies regarding salmon, trout and sea turtle migrations. The study showed that eels can sense magnetic fields to orient themselves. This adds evidence that the magnetic sense is a component for animals that make long migrations in the ocean, Science reported.

The way the eels sense the magnetic fields has been likened by researcher Lewis Naisbett-Jones to a GPS. They pick up on the subtle differences of the Earth's magnetic fields to know their position so they can adjust their travel accordingly.

Naisbett-Jones and his team of researchers said in their study that the eels can sense magnetic fields and respond to them in such a way that it would bring them closer to the Gulf Stream, which is a strong current that runs along the Atlantic coast of the US and crosses to the west side of Europe.

To prove their theory, the researchers observed baby eels that they captured in a container they built that mimicked the Earth's magnetic field at three points in their journey from the Caribbean to Europe. The eels were placed at the center and chose where to go when the magnetic fields were activated. They were more inclined to go southwest when exposed to the magnetic field similar to the one in the Sargasso Sea and northeast when they encountered the field similar to the one in the northwest Atlantic, NPR reported.

The findings in the studies on magnetoreception displayed by animals who go on long migration routes are important to development of new navigation systems that do away with reliance to satellites.

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