Sharks have in-built navigation system similar to GPS. Here's how it works

Edited By: Bharat Sharma WION Web Team
New Delhi, India Published: May 17, 2021, 03:19 PM(IST)

Sharks (file photo). Photograph:( Reuters )

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Ever wondered what it would be like to find your way across alien territory with dangers lurking everywhere? Well, that's a regular day in a shark's life

Sharks are considered among the most elusive creatures on the planet. Their wits and the ability to navigate the deep seas have found expression in all kinds of media, from cult classics like Jaws to research papers serving as testimony to their geographical prowess. 

Earlier, a study shed light on how sharks evolved to adjust to the changes on Earth and many species in fact had fins to support their movement. All aquatic animals are considered the most ancient creatures on our planet, and also the most well-equipped to changes.

Now, a new study sheds light on how the mighty creatures navigate the seas in the absence of modern technology like ours to guide them. Ever wondered what it would be like to find your way across alien territory with dangers lurking everywhere? Well, that's a regular day in a shark's life.

Turns out, the mighty predators have a natural navigation system of their own. Very much like our GPS, it allows the creatures to navigate the seas without depending on external factors. The best part? It comes in-built into their bodies and personalities, much like the GPS in our cars.

How does this shark-based GPS work?

The system, as per scientists from the Florida State University, allows sharks to employ the Earth’s magnetic forces to successfully undertake dangerous and long journeys with high accuracy.

To understand marine navigation, the researchers from Florida observed 20 bonehead sharks that belong to the hammerhead family. They undertook “magnetic displacement” exercises which were successfully able to replicate locations situated hundreds of kilometres away from where they were captured.

Also read: Fossils of 'bizarre' shark with wing-like fins from 93 million years ago found in Mexico

The sharks showed a “homeward orientation” to scientists after being exposed to magnetic cues that tried to recreate the characteristics of a location 603 kilometres (375 miles) away from where they were taken, pointing to the use of magnetic forces in their own GPS system!

The study was published in the journal “Current Biology” and could help scientists understand the puzzling nature of sharks’ navigation in the ocean, whereby they are able to travel long distances and still manage to return to their starting point every year to feed, breed, and to give birth.

The scientists believe that the characteristics of the magnetic forces shown by bonnetheads are probably common to all species of sharks that are capable of travelling long distances in the ocean. Wouldn't our lives also be a lot easier if humans came equipped with a similar navigation system? Perhaps we might evolve to imbibe it in centuries, if not anytime soon.

Also read: Scientists discover three deep-sea sharks that glow in dark

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