Sea Turtles are known for their long migration routes, but did you know that they accumulate critters from the places they visit and it can help in their conservation?
Sea Turtles migrate great distances in every Ocean to complete their life cycle. They stop in different places to feed (forage) to refuel for the next leg of their amazing journey. There are some animals that literally hop on the sea turtle’s backs (wow, that’s lazy) and travel with them for the rest of their journey. These critters, or as we scientists call them: epibionts, can help researchers better conserve sea turtles.
Barnacles, amphipods, diatoms and remoras are just some of the critters that tag along for the ride are able to tell researchers where the sea turtles have been hanging out during their voyage.
Nathan Robinson is one of many researchers around the world participating in the project to help put the story of a sea turtle’s journey together. Nathan can identify whether some sea turtles stay local throughout most of the year by the presence of barnacle, amphipod and other species on the backs of each individual sea turtle.
I found this project to be so compelling because it can tell us some much about where the sea turtles go that I invited Nathan Robinson on the podcast to tell us all about the project and the potential research and conservation actions that can result from this larger project.
Nathan has been on the podcast before, in fact, this is his 5th time on the podcast. Hi first time and third time on the podcast was to discuss his stories of pulling a plastic straw and plastic fork out of two individual Olive Ridley Sea Turtles. Nathan was actually conducting the field component for the epibiont project when he came across the sea turtles with the plastic items in their nasal cavities.
Nathan tells us that he comes across turtles with other injuries, such as fish hooks in their mouths or on their bodies, and removes them as carefully as possible to free them of the pain, a bonus good feeling of providing direct help to sea turtles who need it.
Listen to the podcast to find out more about this amazing project as Nathan and I geek out with some Marine Science.
Links To Resources Discussed in This Podcast
- These are the links for the first two publications that have come out of this epibiont project. The first looks at differences in the epibiont communities of the three sea turtles nesting in Parque Nacional Marino Las Baulas and the second is about sea turtle diatoms.
- This is the article in TheConversation: Many ancient cultures once believed that the world rested on the back of a giant sea turtle. This idea might seem far-fetched today, but for a diverse range of marine organisms, it’s reality. Collectively known as epibionts, these organisms make their homes on the backs of marine animals such as crabs, whales and sea turtles.
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