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!
Climate changes definitely have an effect on loggerhead sea turtle populations- but for different reasons than researchers earlier suspected.
Earlier studies suggested that climate changes impacted hatchling survival. But new research shows that climate changes affect sea turtles in a different way. When climate changes affect turtles’ foraging areas in the year or two before their nesting years, breeding females aren’t able to reproduce successfully… thus, fewer nests.
Sea turtles can have extremely long lifespans. Unfortunately, less than .2% of hatchlings survive to breeding age. But those that do survive to breeding age (approximately 31 years) can have a successful breeding lifetime of over 25 years!
This study suggests that protecting juveniles and adults should be a higher priority than hatchlings. Not to say that protecting nests and hatchlings isn’t important, but since so few hatchlings survive, efforts should be focused on protecting the ones who do make it closer to breeding age in order to help the species more effectively.
These research studies are important because they give scientists clues as to how to channel conservation efforts. Check out this link for more information: