No Rear Flippers, No Problem!

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The wonderful people at the Loggerhead Marinelife Center posted this video over the weekend of a female leatherback sea turtle, nicknamed “Clover”, nesting near Juno Beach. Clover is a known turtle – and easily sighted – because she’s missing both of her rear flippers!

You’ll see little stumps in the video but trust me, her actual flippers would be much larger.  Clover was first sighted by LMC in 2003 with only a portion of a flipper missing.  By 2005 both rear flippers were effected and in 2007 she showed up with no rear flippers!  Judging by the marks and scars across the stumps, and even her front flippers, the LMC crew thinks she’s been tangling with sharks and so far living to tell the tale.

The fact that this female has been able to survive such injuries on her own in the open ocean is really quite the testament to the strength of leatherback immune systems.  I mean.. do  you know how many bacteria and viruses swarm in the average drop of salt water?   It’s not like these guys can swim off to the nearest pharmacy for some Betadine and Neosporin!

If you know much about sea turtles, you know that they make use of those enormous paddle-like flippers to dig out their nest sites in the sand.   It’s crucial that the nests are deep enough to protect the eggs and also generate proper incubation temperatures.

So how do you dig out all that sand if you don’t have rear flippers?! Easy, you get the LMC’s biologist crew to help you. Each time they spot Clover they creep up behind her and help her dig out the nest so that she doesnt crush her eggs. So far this season, Clover has nested SIX times! That’s a lot of ninja-like biologist skills needed to help her little ones have a chance at life.

All of this help for Clover is in addition to monitoring nearly ten miles of beach on the Atlantic.  The season runs roughly May 1st to October 31st, depending a bit on lunar cycles.  At a month in, here’s the LMC’s current nesting totals for the year:

Greens: 9

Leatherbacks: 189

Loggerheads: 1,156

Thank you to the LMC staff for your hard work! You can check them out on their website, and keep in mind they run tours and camps throughout the summer that are not only fascinating and fun, but also help support this nonprofits’ efforts on behalf of wildlife.

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