Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Animal behaviour

The lobster navigators

When experimentally displaced in geomagnetic space, spiny lobsters act as if to make their way home. This is a fascinating case of navigation by an invertebrate using a magnetic map sense.

Access options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.


All prices are NET prices.

Figure 1: Position determination and Earth's magnetic field.
Figure 2: Magnetic inclination and total field intensity in the distribution range of the spiny lobster, Panulirus argus.


  1. 1

    Boles, L. C. & Lohmann, K. J. Nature 421, 60–63 (2003).

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  2. 2

    Middendorff, A. v. Mém. Acad. Sci. Saint-Pétersbourg Ser. 6 8, 1–143 (1855).

    Google Scholar 

  3. 3

    Darwin, C. Nature 7, 360 (1873).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  4. 4

    Viguier, C. Rev. Phil. France Etr. 14, 1–36 (1882).

    Google Scholar 

  5. 5

    Maurain, C. La Nature (Paris) 51, 232–238 (1923).

    Google Scholar 

  6. 6

    Stresemann, E. Ardea 24, 213–226 (1935).

    Google Scholar 

  7. 7

    Yeagley, H. L. J. Appl. Phys. 18, 1035–1063 (1947).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  8. 8

    Wiltschko, R. & Wiltschko, W. Magnetic Orientation in Animals (Springer, Berlin, 1995).

    Book  Google Scholar 

  9. 9

    Kirschvink, J. L., Jones, D. S. & MacFadden, B. J. (eds) Magnetite Biomineralization and Magnetoreception in Animals (Plenum, New York, 1985).

    Book  Google Scholar 

  10. 10

    Lohmann, K. J. et al. J. Exp. Biol. 198, 2041–2048 (1995).

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  11. 11

    Fransson, T. et al. Nature 414, 35–36 (2001).

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  12. 12

    Lohmann, K. J., Cain, S. D., Dodge, S. A. & Lohmann, C. M. F. Science 294, 364–366 (2001).

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  13. 13

    Fischer, J. H., Freake, M. J., Borland, S. C. & Phillips, J. B. Anim. Behav. 62, 1–10 (2001).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. 14

    Lohmann, K. J. & Johnsen, S. Trends Neurosci. 23, 153–159 (2000).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to Thomas Alerstam.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Alerstam, T. The lobster navigators. Nature 421, 27–28 (2003).

Download citation


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing