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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) — Research at the University of North Carolina shows genetic evidence supporting how loggerhead sea turtles use the Earth’s magnetic fields to navigate back to the beaches where they were hatched.

A study published Thursday in the journal Cell Biology shows that magnetic fields are the strongest predictor of genetic similarity among nesting loggerheads, regardless of how far away or dissimilar their home beaches are.

Biologists Kenneth J. Lohmann and J. Roger Brothers have done previous research on turtles and magnetic fields. This genetic evidence, they say, shows that the genetic structure of migratory animal populations can depend not only on isolation and environmental factors, but by how they navigate as well.

Lohmann says the new research could be helpful in conservation efforts.

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Information from: The News & Observer, http://www.newsobserver.com