Lost? Ask a Turtle
Navigation and Migration in Loggerheads
Department of Biology
West Chester University
This case study examines the events surrounding the hatching and migration of loggerhead sea turtles, specifically what mechanisms they use to head towards the ocean (once hatched) and where and how they migrate once in the ocean. The story is written from the point of view of two hatchlings as they crack through their shells, dig out of the sand, and travel at night along the beach into the ocean. Once they survive this peril, they make their way to the deep ocean and the North Atlantic current, migrating along it, until decades later the female makes her way back to the same beach to lay her eggs and begin the cycle anew. The case details how loggerheads navigate these vast distances with seemingly no navigational cues. The case also explores how other long-distance migratory species such as birds and seals migrate along similar vast distances. Originally written for a Masters-level class in biology called "Case Studies in Physiology," the case could easily be used or modified for senior or even undergraduate level biology-majors course.
- Understand the different mechanisms that juvenile and adult turtles use to navigate.
- Understand mechanisms used by seals and birds to navigate.
- Describe and understand navigation strategy differences between aquatic and terrestrial animals.
- Understand the physiology explaining how geomagnetic, celestial, acoustic, and olfactory cues operate in navigation.
KeywordsMigration; migratory pathways; North Atlantic gyre; navigation; loggerhead turtles; hatchlings
Educational LevelUndergraduate upper division, Graduate
Type / MethodsJournal Article
Subject HeadingsPhysiology | Anatomy | Biology (General) | Ecology | Ecology | Marine Science / Oceanography |
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Teaching notes are intended to help teachers select and adopt a case. They typically include a summary of the case, teaching objectives, information about the intended audience, details about how the case may be taught, and a list of references and resources.
This case includes a PowerPoint presentation (file below) that provides students with an overview on the physiology of animal navigation.
Overview of Animal Navigation