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Sea Turtle Science

Monday June 12, 2017

From: Scott R. Benson, NOAA Southwest Fisheries Science Center

An endangered Pacific leatherback turtle (Dermochelys coriacea) with a video camera attached to its carapace by a suction cup approaches its prey, a brown sea nettle (Chrysaora fuscescens), off the coast of San Francisco, California in September 2016. These huge turtles migrate across the Pacific Ocean from western Pacific nesting beaches in Indonesia and Solomon Islands to forage on sea nettles in nearshore waters of California.

A leatherback with a suction cup mounted video camera. Credit: Scott R. Benson, NOAA under NOAA-ESA Permit # 15634.

A frame grab from the video of a leatherback approaching a brown sea nettle (Chrysaora fuscescens) just prior to consumption. Credit: Scott R. Benson, NOAA under NOAA-ESA Permit # 15634.

Tuesday June 13, 2017

From: Larisa Avens, Ph.D., NOAA Southeast Fisheries Science Center, Beaufort Lab

This captive-reared juvenile loggerhead sea turtle is carrying a solar-powered satellite tag in the Gulf Stream off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. This turtle was tagged and released as part of a collaboration with the University of North Carolina Coastal Studies Institute's (UNC CSI) North Carolina Renewable Ocean Energy Project, to evaluate sea turtle use of Gulf Stream habitat.

A captive-reared juvenile loggerhead sea turtle carrying a solar-powered satellite tag in the Gulf Stream off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. Credit: John McCord, UNC Coastal Studies Institute under a scientific research permit.

Wednesday June 14, 2017

From: Pacific islands Fisheries Science Center

A close up photo of 'Rocket Girl,' a hawksbill sea turtle in the nearshore waters of Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii. She was fitted with a GPS-linked satellite tag in October 2015 which allows NOAA and our research partners to track her movements. This helps us understand the habitat use and home range of this small population of endangered hawksbill turtles. Rocket Girl’s tag data suggests she has a small home range of two square kilometers and typically stays in water 30 meters deep, with some daytime foraging dives up to 100 meters just offshore. This summer, the research team will recapture Rocket Girl and remove her tag.  

Rocket Girl was first observed at the Mala Wharf on the Southeast of Maui on 13 July 2007 and later seen off the beach in Kahekili on 7 August 2007. Since then she has been a regular in this area of Maui. She received her name from local resident and photographer Don McLeish because two central scales on her head are not completely separated and give the appearance of a rocket.

Hawksbill sea turtle 'Rocket Girl' with GPS-linked satellite tag. Credit: Don McLeish, under NOAA scientific research permit.

Thursday June 15, 2017

From: NOAA Fisheries Office of Protected Resources

Did you know that sea turtles can get "the bends" or decompression sickness? A new study in Scientific Reports by international researchers, including Dr. Brian Stacy from the Office of Protected Resources, examines decompression sickness in sea turtles caught by fishing gear. The image below was created using a computer and Computed Tomography, which is a special type of x-ray.  The light blue areas show gas within two sea turtles. As seen in the turtle on the left, most of the gas (air) should be within the lungs. In the turtle with decompression sickness, gas is within blood vessels throughout the body (white arrowheads). The lungs are not as visible in this turtle because they are compressed by gas that has accumulated within other organs. This condition can interfere with normal organ function and cause turtles to die in severe cases.

Computed Tomography image of an unaffected loggerhead (left) and loggerhead suffering from decompression sickness (right). Image courtesy of Fundación Oceanogràfic, Valencia, Spain. 

Friday June 16, 2017

Happy International Sea Turtle Day!

From: NOAA Fisheries Office of Protected Resources

Sea turtle biologists from NOAA’s Office of Protected Resources and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission have been monitoring loggerhead sea turtles in Florida Bay, FL for over 25 years. 1,200 individual turtles have been captured and tagged; many have been recaptured multiple times, over periods as long as 20 years. Connectivity and migration pathways between the Florida Bay foraging grounds and east and west coast Florida nesting beaches have been established through tagging, including satellite tagging of adult female loggerhead turtles.

Video of Florida Bay Research (Courtesy Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission)

Photo Caption:  A loggerhead sea turtle swims in the shallow waters of Florida Bay. Photo Credit:  NOAA/FFWCC under scientific research permit.

NOAA and FWC biologists release an adult female loggerhead, equipped with a satellite tag to track her migration to her nesting beach.  Credit:  NOAA/FFWCC under scientific research permit.