London, Aug 1 : Like humans, seals use stars to navigate in open water, according to a group of researchers, who added that the marine mammals can identify a single star in the night sky.
Navigating in the open ocean is essential for seals to move between foraging grounds that may be hundreds of kilometres apart.
The European team has published details of its work in the journal Animal Cognition.
The researchers, headed by Dr Guido Dehnhardt of University of Rostock in Germany, simulated a night sky above two captive male seals and monitored the movements of the animals through six hidden infrared cameras.
"Initially, the seals were guided to one of the brighter stars by a laser pointer, and encouraged to swim towards it," BBC quoted said Bjorn Mauck of the University of Southern Denmark and one of the team-members, as saying.
Once the seals got the hang of navigating by the one star, the night sky above them was rotated around and the seals were watched to see if they could still orientate themselves.
"With a little practice the seals swam in the right direction 100percent of the time," said Dr Mauck.
"Seals might learn the position of the stars relative to foraging grounds during dawn and dusk when they can see both the stars and landmarks at the coast," suggests Dr Mauck.
Story first published: Friday, August 1, 2008, 12:15 [IST]