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Humpbacks Are Surprisingly Linear Leviathans April 22, 2011
Humback whale surfacing
“When we first starting seeing data, we thought, 'Wow, these are really, really straight paths.'” — NOAAA marine biologist Alex Zerbini
New research suggests that migrating humpback whales are actually skilled astronomers, using a combination of Earth’s magnetic field, the sun’s position and even stars at night to make their epic journeys.

“They’re orienting with something outside of themselves, not something internal,” writes Travis Horton of New Zealand’s University of Canterbury in the journal Biology Letters.

He led a team that tracked humpback migration for eight years.

They found that even though the marine mammals venture through some of the world’s most turbulent waters, they somehow manage to follow remarkably straight paths for weeks at a time.

Photo: Natalie Lucier - Flickr