Posts tagged ‘hatchling’

July 6, 2011

They're Heeeeere!

It’s hard to believe but groups around Florida are starting to report hatchling sea turtles on their beaches! The Florida Oceanographic Society shared these awesome photos of tiny loggerheads coming up out of the sand and makin’ tracks down to the water at Bathtub Beach.

As always, if you’re lucky enough to see an emergence of sea turtles in person, do not get this close (these photos were taken by permitted individuals) and let them do their own thing.  It may seem helpful to walk them down to the water, but that natural weeding out that occurs is a necessary thing.

Something that you can do to benefit the hatchlings? Always be sure to fill in the holes from your sand castle building adventures!  (Also tear down any castles before you leave.)   These monuments and pitfalls can become traps and are potentially lethal to hatchlings that are scurrying off the sand in favor the water away from gulls, racoons, and crabs.

Stranded and sick hatchlings (or “washbacks” as they’re termed if they occur after strong storms) can always be reported, the best group I know of for our area is the Sea Turtle Preservation Society.

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June 16, 2011

It's World Sea Turtle Day!

Hawksbill sea turtle in the Caymans, Photo: M. Vinciguerra

It’s World Sea Turtle Day! Wonderful people like those at the Sea Turtle Preservation Society here in Florida are celebrating the day (it’s also famed turtle researcher Archie Carr’s birthday) by hosting open houses with book signings, food, and fun for the kids.

The Loggerhead Marinelife Center further down the state is continuing their turtle nest surveys, summer camps, and open houses.  (Over 2,000 loggerheads have nested already on their 9.8 mile stretch of beach.  And I definitely recommend you find out how Kahuna the sea turtle got the same star treatment as Terrell Owens and Michael Jackson from LMC staff!)

What are you doing for the day?  Remember to keep refusing those plastic bags and other items if you can avoid them and if you’ve got the means, consider supporting LMC or STPS by joining them as a member.  Or perhaps you’re local enough to consider a turtle walk?  Both organizations are permitted through the state and run these night time beach adventures and with yesterdays full moon (and lunar eclipse!) I bet the turtle activity is pretty strong out there right now.

UPDATE:  On a visit to Canaveral National Seashore today we counted 103 nests along a 1.5 mile stretch of beach!  Nearly all of them loggerheads.

June 7, 2011

Solenostomus Awesomeness

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A few weeks back, Monterey Bay Aquarium announced that a pair of its weedy sea dragons were expecting.  This created quite the stir in the zoo and aquarium world, as successful mating attempts (let alone successful hatching of the eggs) is quite a feat in captive members of the species.  As with all true snygnathids including the seahorses, pipefishes, and sea dragons, the males fertilize the eggs after the female produces them and then attaches them to  a specialized region on his body (in seahorses an actual pouch!) for incubation.

Back in 2008, the Georgia Aquarium announced a similar pregnancy, noting it was just the third successful egg-carrying event in the United States.  I’m not sure where that puts Monterey Bay’s pair now in 2011, but let’s hope their male continues to carry the eggs and that they hatch in time for Father’s Day!

Not to be outdone, the Steinhart Aquarium announced something even more amazing: they’ve got ornate ghost pipefish (Solenostomus paradoxus) fry!!!!

In the realm of fishkeeping, ghost pipefishes are high up the evolutionary ladder for their specific and specialized needs.  They’re fairly delicate with respect to water quality and – like most of the snygnathidae – are picky when it comes to food sources and sensitive to gaps in nutrition.  But there’s a catch here, while they’re related to the syngnathidae very closely (just look at that trigger like mouth!), they’re not true syngnathids.

In fact for the ghosts, the females carry the eggs, just under their supersized pelvic fins.  You can see this male/female distinguishing trait quite readily in the (incredible!) videos Steinhart has made available.  You can just see her fanning the eggs here:

We don’t know a whole lot about breeding and incubation in the species, so anything Steinhart learns could be an enormous contribution to the field.  I’m crossing my fingers they get a good enough survival rate from the wee ones (they’re just 6-7mm now!) that a few can be raised to adulthood.  This is potentially a godsend for other public aquariums, as captive-born fish tend to have stouter constitutions, and can even sometimes be trained off of their wild-caught parents demanding needs for live foods in favor of frozen delicacies.

One last confession:  I totally think ghost pipefish fry are cuter than a lot of human babies.

May 31, 2011

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.