Sea Turtles

An adult green turtle from the Karpaz nesting beach
An adult green turtle from the Karpaz nesting beach

Egyptian lagoon is preferred foraging ground for Cyprus' green turtles

Researchers have discovered that Lake Bardawil in Egypt is the preferred foraging spot for female turtles that lay eggs at key rookeries in Cyprus.

Situated at the northern coast of the Sinai Peninsula, Lake Bardawil is a large, shallow lagoon with an artificial opening that connects to the sea. Initially created as a fishery in the 1950s, it became an ideal seagrass habitat for adult green turtles.

Turtle on beach
Turtle on beach

Florida's turtles are now mostly born female

Rising temperatures are making it too hot for Florida’s turtles to enter the dating scene—literally.

The recent heat waves have raised the temperature of the sand on some beaches so much that nearly all turtles born in the last four summers have been female.

A turtle's gender depends on the temperature of the developing eggs, and this is dependent on the temperature of the sand in which the eggs are buried.

Merlin's Sentience: The Story of a Sea Turtle

Merlin, the sea turtle, illustration by Ila France Porcher
Merlin, the sea turtle. Illustration by Ila France Porcher

Sighting a sea turtle on a dive is always a pleasure. However, few know much about what they are like as animals. Being reptiles, it is assumed that they are essentially on automatic—emotionless and thoughtless. But we changed our minds about that when Merlin came. Ila France Porcher relays the tale of rehabilitating a sick sea turtle in Tahiti, at a time when turtles were often hunted for food.

Sea turtles to spend more time house-hunting in the future

In the future, sea turtles in the US will find it harder to find suitable nesting habitat, due to climate change, rising sea levels and coastal development.

A team led by Florida State University came to this conclusion after their research which modelled the suitability of coastal habitats in the eastern United States by 2050 for sea turtle nesting, after considering predicted sea-level rise and future climates.

Their findings were recently published in the Regional Environmental Change journal.

Baby loggerhead

Do young loggerhead turtles swim or drift?

Despite good swimming abilities, juvenile loggerhead turtles are thought to drift passively for a significant portion of their existence on the high seas

However, a study by researchers from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has found that turtles were swimming against the prevailing current in a statistically significant pattern at a rate of 30 cm/sec, which indicates an ability to detect the current flow and orient themselves to swim into the current flow direction.

This study provides (...) compelling evidence that these turtles are able to resist such transport using some mechanism not yet fully understood.

—Dr. Donald Kobayashi, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Turtles and plastic bags
Plastics floating in the ocean build a coating of algae and microorganisms that smells edible to turtles.

Why do sea turtles eat plastic? Perhaps because it smells good

To understand sea turtle behavior around ocean plastics, the research team compared how sea turtles in a lab setting reacted to smelling odors of turtle food, ocean-soaked plastic, clean plastic and water.

The turtles ignored the scents of clean plastic and water, but responded to the odors of food and ocean-soaked plastics by showing foraging behavior. This included poking their noses out of the water repeatedly as they tried to smell the food source, and increasing their activity as they searched.

Study identifies key loggerhead turtle foraging grounds

After tracking female loggerhead turtles in the Mediterranean, scientists at University of Exeter discovered that they feed at the same locations every year.

Specifically, these were in the Adriatic region, Tunisian Plateau and the eastern Mediterranean. Unfortunately, some of these locations are not ideal, and lead the loggerheads into danger.

 Dermochelys coriacea
Leatherback turtle (Filephoto)

Leatherbacks picky about nest sites

A team of researchers from the University of Michigan focused on leatherback sea turtles nesting on St. Kitts, an island in the West Indies southeast of Puerto Rico. The team wanted to know what factors influence where and when the leatherbacks lay their eggs.

It has been suggested that characteristics of the sand, the slope of the beach and proximity to vegetation contribute to the success or failure of nests, but which factors cause female leatherback sea turtles to dig a nest in a particular spot has never been investigated.

Olive Ridley sea turtle
Olive Ridley sea turtle

Atlantic’s largest turtle breeding colony discovered

The central African country of Gabon is providing an invaluable nesting ground for a vulnerable species of sea turtle. During a survey of nearly 600 km of Gabon's coastline, scientists from the University of Exeter uncovered the Atlantic’s largest breeding colony of olive ridley turtles. Study results estimate that there could be up to 9,800 turtle nests per year, compared with around 3,300 in French Guiana and 3,000 in Brazil.