A study, which was conducted by the researchers from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and published in the Current Biology journal, states that young sea turtles are actually strong swimmers.
It was previously believed that after sea turtles hatch from their ocean-side nests, they scamper to the sea and disappear for several years, a period of time referred to as the “lost years.” It was assumed that they simply drift along during their adolescent years. However, a new study has found that young sea turtles are actually strong swimmers.
For their study, the researchers tracked 20 Kemp’s ridley wild-caught and 24 green sea turtles between the ages of eight and 18 months, utilizing solar-powered tags. The researchers also placed surface buoys, comparing movements of the animals to the buoys as they drifted freely on the ocean currents.
The researchers found that the baby sea turtles traveled distances as far as 125 miles more than the mechanical devices. Researchers speculate this could be due to the animals swimming to preferred environments.
Kate Mansfield, director of the University of Central Florida’s Marine Turtle Research Group, and the lead author of the study, said, “What is exciting is that this is the first study to release drifters with small, wild-caught yearling or neonate sea turtles in order to directly test the ‘passive drifter’ hypothesis in these young turtles. Our data show that one hypothesis doesn’t, and shouldn’t, fit all, and that even a small degree of swimming or active orientation can make a huge difference in the dispersal of these young animals.”
Before this research, many biologists theorized that young sea turtles spent much of their formative period foraging for food among beds of Sargassum and other seaweed.
“The results of our study have huge implications for better understanding early sea turtle survival and behavior, which may ultimately lead to new and innovative ways to further protect these imperiled animals,” added Mansfield.