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Sharks Find Their Way Using Smell

Posted by on Jan 8, 2016 in animal navigation, navigation, tracking, Wayfinding | 0 comments

Sharks Find Their Way Using Smell

Scientists are closer to solving one of the mysteries of how living creatures who can’t rely on GPS and wayfinding skills (unlike you, dear reader) find their way around. Take sharks, for example.

Experts knew that sharks are guided by the earth’s magnetic field as they move in the ocean, but were curious about other factors, including smell, that might also influence navigation.

A team of five investigators tracked leopard sharks, “a Pacific coastal species that makes foraging trips out to deeper waters.” In order to understand how smell affected navigation, they released sharks at sea and tracked their path back to the California coast over a four-hour period. Sharks with a limited sense of smell (their noses were clogged by the researchers) made it 37.2% of the way back, while sharks with a full sense of smell made it 62.6% of the way back.

According to the researchers, “This is the first study to demonstrate experimentally that olfaction (smell) contributes to pelagic (open sea) navigation in sharks, likely mediated by chemical gradients as has been hypothesized for birds.”

Here’s a link to the news story:

Here’s a link to the article:

If you’re directionally challenged you need the award-winning book, Directional Sense: How to Find Your Way Around, by Janet R. Carpman and Myron A. Grant.


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