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Press Release 13-021

Animal Magnetism: First Evidence That Magnetism Helps Salmon Find Home

Salmon appear to seek the magnetic signature of their home river during their spawning migration

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Map showing Vancouver and Pacific ocean and arrows indicating southern and northern route of salmon

The proportion of salmon using the northern versus southern passage to the Fraser River in British Columbia, Canada, could be largely predicted by the magnetic fields of these passages; the closer the magnetic field at a passage entrance matched the field at the river mouth years before when the fish originally swam through it, the more fish used the passage.

Credit: Nathan Putman, Oregon State University


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Red sockeye salmon in the river

When sockeye salmon migrate from salt water to fresh water, they change color--going from their ocean colors of mostly silver with some darker coloration on their backs (like a lot of other ocean fish) to red when in fresh water.

Credit: Dr. Tom Quinn, University of Washington


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Close up image of a red sockeye salmon in water

Sockeye salmon weigh on average 8 pounds, and may reach 3 feet in length.

Credit: Dr. Tom Quinn, University of Washington


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Nathan Putnam, a post-doctoral researcher at Oregon State University, solves some of the mysteries of amazing salmon migrations.

Credit: National Science Foundation