Circle Snake
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Illustration by Lisa Gardiner

Sea snakes search for home!
News story originally written on October 4, 2002

Plans to move sea snakes between Pacific islands might be foiled by the snakes and their fascinating instinct to find their home!

The sea snakes live near reefs in shallow waters next to Pacific Ocean islands. People have been fishing for the snakes around some of the islands because their skins have been used to make a type of leather. Too much fishing reduced the number of snakes until there were no more in the shallow water next to some islands. To solve this problem, conservationists planned to move some snakes from places where there are many to places where they have disappeared.

However, the snakes might not want to move! According to researchers who study the reptiles, there is a problem with the plan because certain types of sea snakes have an instinct to always go back home. Some sea snakes have homing behavior, which means that they can navigate, finding their way over long distances, enabling them to get back to their island.

Other animals have homing behavior too, such as crocodiles, sea turtles, whales and homing pigeons. Some animals can find their way because they remember the landmarks they must pass. Other animals have a special ability to find specific locations, even without landmarks. Scientists believe these animals might be using the positions of stars or the Earth’s magnetic field to point them in the right direction.

Last modified October 9, 2002 by Lisa Gardiner.

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