Sea Turtles

Sea Turtles

I’m McKensie Daugherty, your host for On the Ocean. Sea turtles are shelled reptiles that live in saltwater habitats, which come from the same lineage in turtle history. There are seven species of sea turtles around the world, and every ocean has at least one species that lives there during parts of the year. There are five species of sea turtles in the Gulf of Mexico. These are: the Green Sea turtle, the Loggerhead, the Hawksbill, the Leatherback, and the Kemp’s Ridley. In 2013, Texas named the Kemp’s Ridley species as its official state sea turtle. Sea turtles are distinguished from other turtles by their oceanic habitat, Lacrimal Glands, and the ways in which their flippers and head cannot retract into their shell. Lacrimal glands are the salt glands in the eyes of sea turtles used to get rid of excess salt in their system. Also, their flippers cannot retract due to the muscles they develop in order to accomplish the movement they need to propel themselves in the water column. These muscles are so large, they don’t allow the turtle to retract their head or their flippers. Sea turtle females lay eggs on beaches in holes they dig, which is called a nest. Their nesting behaviors are the subject of many lines of research. For instance, a research turtle housed at Texas A&M University began to lay eggs in her enclosure. Scientists quickly transported her to the golf course, where she finished laying her eggs on a sand pit. Aggieland now has its very own sea turtle nesting event! This month we will discuss conservation efforts and risks to sea turtles, and how Texas A&M researchers try to understand sea turtle behavior to aid these efforts. This has been On the Ocean, a program made possible by the Department of Oceanography and a production of KAMU-FM on the campus of Texas A&M University in College Station. For more information and links, please go to ocean.tamu.edu and click “On the Ocean.”

 

Contributing Professor: Dr. Pamela Plotkin

Texas Sea Grant

Photo credit Chris Figgener

Pacific Green Sea Turtle hatchling

Pacific Green Turtle Hatchling

Olive Ridley Hatchling

Olive Ridley Hatchling II

Leatherback Sea Turtle

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Juvenile Green Sea Turtle

juvenile green turtle

Sea Turtle Conservation

I’m McKensie Daugherty, your host for On the Ocean. Conservation of sea turtles has been the mission of many organizations for decades. The United States and Mexico have collaborated in this endeavor for years. In the U.S., organizations such as Gladys Porter Zoo, NOAA, Texas Parks and Wildlife, National Park Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, and Texas SeaGrant, have collaborated for years in order to understand and remove these problems. Thanks to their hard work, the Texas Gulf of Mexico has seen vast improvement in sea turtle populations, especially for the Kemp’s Ridley species. Conservation efforts for sea turtles are multifaceted. Threats to sea turtles in the open ocean are concentrated to ingestion of plastics and accidental capture in the nets of the shrimping boats. These nets can trap and kill many turtles, and this reduced their population greatly. However, in 1990, the shrimp fisheries began employing a Turtle Excluder Device (called a TED) in nets that allow turtles to escape their fishing nets unharmed. This allowed growth of the sea turtle populations in the open ocean. The other side of turtle conservation is the focus on their reproduction and hatching happening on beaches. Beaches can be incredibly dangerous places for both mother and hatchling turtles. Predators, human poachers, and accidental destruction of nests can dramatically decrease turtle populations. Organizations spend time and funding to work on the protection of nests with unhatched eggs, as well as corralling these eggs. Eggs can also be collected and taken to incubators if need be, then released at the time of hatching. Conservation efforts are processes that take decades to work because of the long timing of turtle life and reproduction. Many organizations work together to help these animals, and the success of conservation efforts done in the 1960’s and 70’s are paying off today. This has been On the Ocean, a program made possible by the Department of Oceanography and a production of KAMU-FM on the campus of Texas A&M University in College Station. For more information and links, please go to ocean.tamu.edu and click On the Ocean.

Contributing Professor: Dr. Pamela Plotkin

Texas Sea Grant

Article explaining TED’s and their use -with photos

Photo credit: Chris Figgener

Graduate Student Chris Figgener performing education outreach to students about turtle research and conservation

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Graduate Student Chris Figgener with hatchling from nest for conservation researchChris exhumating nest

Plague of Plastics

I’m McKensie Daugherty, your host for On the Ocean. One of the most dangerous threats to sea turtles is the overwhelming existence of plastics in the open ocean. In fact, there is an area in the Pacific Ocean named the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, in which an area of floating garbage covers surface area larger than the state of Texas. Sea turtles live in this area, and other areas where floating plastics are prevalent. Today, more than 80% of deceased turtles found and examined have plastic inside their stomach. This can range from plastic bags, bottle tops, ropes, and tags to straws, lids and anything that a turtle can possibly eat. Single use plastics are an enormous problem for sea turtles, and for oceanic waste collection. Things like plastic straws and cups are easily ingested by sea turtles, and can even be caught on them elsewhere, like in their nostrils or wrapped around their shells or appendages. This plastic is not just being dumped directly into the ocean, it is coming indirectly from waterways from all over the nation. Why are these sea turtles ingesting plastic and other nonfood objects? Scientists hypothesize that this is because sea turtles have never encountered objects floating in the ocean that they cannot eat, until the addition of plastics became as large a problem as it is today. To help ocean cleanup and sea turtles, communities recycle as much and as often as possible to not only reuse items, but keep them from reaching the open ocean. Single use plastics like lids, bags, and straws can be replaced by multi use products (for example, bringing reusable bags to the grocery store), which can help reduce plastic one piece and one person at a time. This has been On the Ocean, a program made possible by the Department of Oceanography and a production of KAMU-FM on the campus of Texas A&M University in College Station. For more information and links, please go to ocean.tamu.edu and click On the Ocean.

Contributing Professor: Dr. Pamela Plotkin

Texas Sea Grant

Photo credit: Chris Figgener

Video article about plastic straws and turtles: appropriate for all viewers

Full length video of straw removal here: To support PhD research on Sea Turtles, WARNING, GRAPHIC IMAGES and LANGUAGE in video

Recycling information: http://www.epa.gov/recycle

Please consider adding recycling to your daily life, we can reduce the amount of garbage in the ocean one plastic piece at a time. -On the Ocean

 

Sea Turtle Research

I’m McKensie Daugherty, your host for On the Ocean. Sea turtles are fascinating reptiles, with many behaviors to try and understand to help with their conservation. Researchers at Texas A&M University use satellite trackers and isotope analyses to understand and track sea turtles to better understand where they nest and feed, so that these beaches and feeding areas can be protected. Olive Ridley sea turtles display two distinct types of nesting: solitary and Arribada. Solitary nesting occurs when females nest seemingly at random, in different places, and do it alone. Arribada nesting is an event where thousands of female sea turtles gather offshore until an unknown trigger signals them to swim to shore and nest all together, in the same area at the same time. Using satellite trackers, researchers proved they leave in different directions, meaning this is not considered a social migratory behavior. Using these trackers, researchers also see the travelling range and feeding areas of the sea turtles. Conveniently, Olive Ridleys often sunbathe at the surface of the ocean, meaning the satellite tracker is able to communicate on a consistent basis, and scientists can get more data. Most interestingly, they see that female Olive Ridley’s switch from Solitary to Arribada behaviors and vice-versa seemingly at random. As a result, researchers are using stable isotope analysis (using Carbon to Nitrogen ratios) to discover where these sea turtles are eating. They hypothesize the trigger in switching behaviors could be a change in the feeding behavior of the turtles. By tracking their behavior, scientists hope to discover what drives these processes. This has been On the Ocean, a program made possible by the Department of Oceanography and a production of KAMU-FM on the campus of Texas A&M University in College Station. For more information and links, please go to ocean.tamu.edu and click On the Ocean.

Contributing Professor: Dr. Pamela Plotkin

Texas Sea Grant

Sea Turtle Tracking

Photo credit: Chris Figgener

Satellite tracker on Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle

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Observation of nesting female

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Sea turtle egg collection, Chris Figgener

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Chris Figgener and researchers taking measurements on Olive Ridley Sea Turtles

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Sea turtle’s Arribada behavior

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