Efficiency of island homing by sea turtles under multimodal navigating strategies

Kevin J. Painter, Aleksandra Plochocka

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)
59 Downloads (Pure)


A dot in the vastness of the Atlantic, Ascension Island remains a lifelong goal for the green sea turtles that hatched there, returning as adults every three or four years to nest. This navigating puzzle was brought to the scientific community's attention by Charles Darwin and remains a topic of considerable speculation. Various cues have been suggested, with orientation to geomagnetic field elements and following odour plumes to their island source among the most compelling. Via a comprehensive in silico investigation we test the hypothesis that multimodal cue following, in which turtles utilise multiple guidance cues, is the most effective strategy. Specifically, we combine agent-based and continuous-level modelling to simulate displaced virtual turtles as they attempt to return to the island. Our analysis shows how population homing efficiency improves as the number of utilised cues is increased, even under “extreme” scenarios where the overall strength of navigating information decreases. Beyond the paradigm case of green turtles returning to Ascension Island, we believe this could commonly apply throughout animal navigation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)40-52
Number of pages13
JournalEcological Modelling
Early online date15 Nov 2018
Publication statusPublished - 10 Jan 2019


  • Animal navigation
  • Ascension Island
  • Geomagnetic sensing
  • Multiscale model
  • Plume following

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecological Modelling


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