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Researchers who confirmed in recent years that salmon use the Earth's geomagnetic field to guide their long-distance migrations have found that the fish also use the field for a much simpler and smaller-scale migration: When the young emerge from gravel nests to reach surface waters.
The study is published in the journal Biology Letters. The findings have important implications for understanding how salmon navigate across the wide range of habitats they encounter.
"From very early on in the life cycle, salmon have the ability to detect and respond to geomagnetic information," said David Noakes, director of the Oregon Hatchery Research Center and senior author on the study. "This matters because we need to know how rearing conditions might impact the fish, particularly in the case of hatcheries – where we already have some evidence that exposure to unnatural magnetic fields can disrupt the ability of steelhead trout to orient appropriately."