CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) — Research from University of North Carolina biologists shows adult loggerhead sea turtles use Earth’s magnetic fields to navigate back to beaches where they were hatched, and turtles that nest on beaches with similar fields are also genetically similar.

A new study from biologists Kenneth J. Lohmann and J. Roger Brothers shows the fields are the strongest predictor of genetic similarity among nesting loggerheads regardless of how far away or dissimilar their home beaches are.

The finding supports the biologists’ previous research indicting the turtles use magnetic fields and implies they sometimes mistakenly nest at a beach with a similar field, even if it’s far from their home one.

Lohmann says the new research could be helpful in conservation efforts for sea turtles and other migratory animals.

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