Scientists reveal how this 'magnetic' fish finds its way home at night

In a recently published study, scientists explain how coral reef fish larvae are able to navigate back home at night—with the help of magnetic forces.

Small fish that hatch on coral reefs are typically pushed far away by water currents; however, as many as 60 percent of survivors are able to find their way back home.

These fish are thought to use the sun's position to help direct them during the day, but it was unknown how they knew where to swim at night.

To test their response to magnetic forces, researchers from Australia and Germany collected baby Cardinal fish from the Great Barrier Reef and exposed them to a magnetic field similar to the one around the large structure.

As one of the scientists, Mike Kingsford, is quoted as saying in a news release, "Normally, fish orientated to the south east, but when we altered the magnetic field clockwise by 120 degrees, there was a significant change in the direction the fish swam. They all turned further west, thinking they were still on track to their destination."

As such, he concluded by stating, "Our results show that larvae can use their magnetic senses to point them in the right direction when it's night time."

The team believes this capability may apply to other marine animals which could help scientists better map—and protect—-their populations.

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