Oregon State University Researchers Discover Magnetic Effects on Salmon Hatchlings

In *All by Ag is America

While recent studies have confirmed that salmon use the Earth’s geomagnetic field to guide their long-distance migrations, researchers at Oregon State University have found that young salmon use the same tactics when they emerge from their gravel nests to reach surface waters. The newly-hatched fish appear to use the direction of magnetic field lines to help determine which way is up, according to research from the Oregon Hatchery Research Center, which is part of Oregon State University.  . The findings have important implications for understanding how salmon navigate across the wide range of habitats they encounter.

The collaborative research team constructed a system of copper-wire coils through which a very low electric current could precisely control the magnetic field surrounding fish. One group of salmon were exposed to the normal magnetic field in Oregon and another group of salmon to an inverted magnetic field. Fish that were developmentally ready to move into surface waters were placed at the bottom of plastic tubes that had been filled with clear glass marbles, to mimic gravel. The researchers then tracked how high the fish moved up in the tubes.

The research indicates that magnetic cues are used for three-dimensional orientation across a wide range of spatial scales and habitats. Understanding this is important as unnatural magnetic fields could disrupt the ability for the fish to orient themselves, and have adverse effects on hatchlings’ ability to survive.

To learn more about this exciting research from Oregon State University, read more here.

 

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