Graduate School News

Royster Fellow Is Lead Author on Study Focusing on Loggerhead Sea Turtle Navigation

March 3, 2011

Nathan Putman, a doctoral candidate in biology and Lovick P. Corn Dissertation Fellow within the Graduate School’s Royster Society of Fellows, has been featured in numerous recent interviews regarding his team’s findings that indicate loggerhead sea turtles perceive longitude using an internal magnetic positioning system.

The finding has been a surprise to many, Putman says. “Early human navigators had great difficulty determining their longitudinal position at sea, and the predominant thought has been that migratory animals were similarly handicapped,” Putman said. “Our study demonstrates that this is not the case. Using information from the earth’s magnetic field provides a relatively simple mechanism that turtles and other animals can use to guide their east-west migrations.”

Putman was the lead author of the study, published in the March 22, 2011, edition of the journal Current Biology (which was available online Feb. 24, 2011). Other authors, all at UNC-Chapel Hill, were Courtney S. Endres, doctoral student in biology; Dr. Catherine M.F. Lohmann, lecturer in biology; and Dr. Kenneth J. Lohmann, Charles P. Postelle Jr. distinguished professor in the department of biology.

Hear a National Public Radio “Morning Edition” interview with Putman, conducted within the Carolina News Studio.