Glass eels (Anguilla anguilla) imprint the magnetic direction of tidal currents from their juvenile estuaries

Alessandro Cresci, Caroline M. Durif, Claire B. Paris, Steven D. Shema, Anne Berit Skiftesvik, Howard I. Browman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


The European eel (Anguilla anguilla) hatches in the Sargasso Sea and migrates to European and North African freshwater. As glass eels, they reach estuaries where they become pigmented. Glass eels use a tidal phase-dependent magnetic compass for orientation, but whether their magnetic direction is innate or imprinted during migration is unknown. We tested the hypothesis that glass eels imprint their tidal-dependent magnetic compass direction at the estuaries where they recruit. We collected 222 glass eels from estuaries flowing in different cardinal directions in Austevoll, Norway. We observed the orientation of the glass eels in a magnetic laboratory where the magnetic North was rotated. Glass eels oriented towards the magnetic direction of the prevailing tidal current occurring at their recruitment estuary. Glass eels use their magnetic compass to memorize the magnetic direction of tidal flows. This mechanism could help them to maintain their position in an estuary and to migrate upstream.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number366
JournalCommunications Biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)


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