It has long been thought that after sea turtles hatch out of their egg and head for the sea, they passively drift through the oceans, their destination driven by the flow of water, and not the turtles themselves. It was not certain where the turtles went, and their early lives were nicknamed the “lost years” in recognition of our ignorance.
However, after receiving reports from the satellite trackers from the young loggerhead sea turtles, it was found that the turtles would actually sometimes swim, said Nathan Putman and Katherine Mansfield of the National Marine Fisheries Services in Miami in the May 4 Current Biology.
Mansfield and Putman collected 24 green and 20 Kemp’s ridley turtles which were only a year or two old from the Gulf of Mexico. Satellite trackers were attached to the turtles and then were released back into the gulf. With the release of every turtle , the researchers also set loose a pair of drifters, which can be objects such as five gallon buckets adorned with satellite trackers on them as well, in order to compare the movement of turtles with something that can’t swim.
“If the movement of turtles were primarily the result of ocean circulation processes, we would expect swimming speeds to be similar for drifters and turtles,” the researchers note. But that’s not what they saw. When they plotted out the paths of the turtles and the drifters, there were distinct differences — the turtles moved faster than the drifters. They also moved in slightly different directions, with the greens going eastward and the Kemp’s ridleys heading north.
The green sea turtles were at a higher speed than the Kemp’s ridley’s, reveals the tracking satellite. This speed may aid in the green sea turtles to disperse farther. Kemp’s ridley sea turtles, on the contrary, sticks mostly towards the Gulf of Mexico. They can mosey along a bit more slowly.