The incredible 4,500-mile Atlantic Ocean journey of tiny turtles

Posted by Shazy on Thursday, March 10, 2011

The incredible 4,500-mile Atlantic Ocean journey of tiny turtles
Scientists have lifted the lid on an incredible 70-day journey that wild turtles, some younger than six months old, take for the first time.

Researchers tagged some of the smallest and youngest ever baby turtles to be tracked, revealing the epic 4,500 mile journey in the Atlantic Ocean.

The young Loggerhead turtles were monitored by satellite as they made their journey - the equivalent of travelling from London to Mumbai.

Scientists customised the 9gm tracker tags normally used for birds, making them waterproof, before gluing them onto the reptiles' shells.

Jeanette Wyneken and Kate Mansfield, from Florida Atlantic University, said they were amazed at the length of the journey made by the 17 tiny turtles.

'This is the first time turtles aged four months have ever been tagged and tracked by satellite,' said Dr Wyneken.

'Previously we have never known what these young turtles do once they leave their beach nests and swim off into the ocean.

'It was important to us that the tags did not stop them from behaving normally. Thankfully they acted as as if there was nothing attached to there backs at all.

'Seaweed is an important habitat for the turtles and they had no problem moving around it.'

Using data transmitted by the tags, the team was able to map every movement.

Dr Wyneken said: 'The turtles varied a lot in their movements, more so than we expected. They're likely doing much more than just paddling straight to the deep water and riding the current.

'We're very happy and excited by the results.'

The 17 satellite tags cost £32,000 and allowed the animals to be monitored from anywhere on the planet.
The little loggerhead turtles were captured from their Florida beach nests especially to take part the tagging project.

The hand-sized reptiles were between four and six months old when they were released 10-miles east of Palm Beach and weighed only 300 grams.

When they are between six and eight months of age they outgrow the tags which fall off into the sea.

'We're trying to protect them from harm,' said Jeanette.

'The question is one of basic natural history: where are they going? For how long and what are the risks in between?

'If you don't know where they are or what places they're visiting you don't know what areas you need to protect.

'And if you don't have this information you're gambling with the method you're using to protect them and enhance their survival.'

Funding for the project came from the University of New Hampshire's Large Pelagics Research Center, Save Our Seas Foundation, Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund, and the Florida Sea Turtle Licence Plate Grants Program.

The full results of the tracking are expected to be published later this year.

Source: Dailymail