Loggerhead sea turtles are amazing navigators- they can swim up to 15 miles per hour, and incredibly, females will return to the very beach where they were hatched to lay their own eggs! This journey is still somewhat of a mystery, though- in the 10 years or so between the time the hatchlings leave the beach and later return as mature adults, we don’t really know what they do.
To get more information about these turtles’ “lost years,” researchers are using satellite tracking tags that were originally developed for birds. The problem? Figuring out a way to attach the tags to the turtles without hurting their shells or affecting their movement. But when the researchers working on this project recognized that turtle shells are similar to human fingernails in the way they shed layers of keratin, they looked for some outside collaboration- and that collaboration was with their manicurist!
With inspiration from fingernails, they used a base coat of acrylic lacquer before gluing the tags to the turtles’ shells. And it worked! The tags safely stayed in place for months, and researchers have already collected important data that is giving them information about these turtles’ behaviors and migrations. Read more!