biology and conservation of sea turtles

7 Underwater Facts for World Oceans Day

Today is World Oceans Day, a global day of ocean celebration and collaboration for a better future. A healthy world ocean is critical to our survival. Together, let’s honor, help protect, and conserve the world’s oceans!

1. While the Earth’s oceans are known as five separate entities, there is really only one ocean.

2. The ocean contains upwards of 99% of the world’s biosphere, that is, the spaces and places where life exists.

Both above GIFs are from the TED-Ed Lesson How big is the ocean? - Scott Gass

Animation by 20 steps

3. Jellyfish are soft because they are 95% water and are mostly made of a translucent gel-like substance called mesoglea. With such delicate bodies, jellyfish rely on thousands of venom-containing stinging cells called cnidocytes for protection and prey capture.

From the TED-Ed Lesson How does a jellyfish sting? - Neosha S Kashef

Animation by Cinematic

4. Plastics & litter that make their way into our oceans are swiftly carried by currents, ultimately winding up in huge circulating ocean systems called gyres. The earth has five gyres that act as gathering points, but the largest of all is known as the ‘Great Pacific Garbage Patch’ and has grown so immense that the oceanic garbage patch can shift from around the size of Texas, to something the size of the United States. 

From the TED-Ed Lesson The nurdles’ quest for ocean domination - Kim Preshoff

Animation by Reflective Films

5. The 200 or so species of octopuses are mollusks belonging to the order Cephalopoda, Greek for ‘head-feet’. Those heads contain impressively large brains, with a brain to body ratio similar to that of other intelligent animals, and a complex nervous system with about as many neurons as that of a dog.

From the TED-Ed Lesson Why the octopus brain is so extraordinary - Cláudio L. Guerra

Animation by Cinematic

6. Some lucky animals are naturally endowed with bioluminescence, or the ability to create light. The firefly, the anglerfish, and a few more surprising creatures use this ability in many ways, including survival, hunting, and mating.

From the TED-Ed Lesson The brilliance of bioluminescence - Leslie Kenna

Animation by Cinematic

7. Sea turtles ultimately grow from the size of a dinner plate to that of a dinner table. In the case of the leatherback sea turtle, this can take up to a decade. Happy World Turtle Day!

From the TED-Ed Lesson The survival of the sea turtle - Scott Gass

Animation by Cinematic Sweden

Why Should I Care For the Oceans?

We’ve all heard it:

“Why does it matter if we overfish tuna? It tastes so good!”

“If the oceans dried up tomorrow, why would I care? I live 500miles away from any body of water!”

The thing is, without the oceans, we would all be dead. Our planet would probably look like Mars. There would be no freshwater, no food for us to eat, no suitable climate for us to survive.

(Photo: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Whether you live by the coast, or only see the ocean once a year on holiday, the ocean has an impact on your life. Every breath you take, every food or drinks you have… is thanks to our oceans. Every single individual and living being on this planet is deeply connected, and extremely dependent upon our seas.

The oceans regulates climate, weather, and temperature. They act as carbon dioxide ‘sinks’ from the atmosphere. They hold 97% of the Earth’s water. They govern our Earth’s chemistry; all the microbes and microscopic organisms at the very bottom of the food chain support our own existence. The oceans are also crucial for our economies, health and security.

(Photo credit: Brian Skerry)

The past generations have been raised with the idea that the ocean is huge (and it is) and resilient, and that we could basically take from or put into the oceans as much as we wanted. Now, we found out that we cant go on this way. This mentality is part of our problem and it needs to change.

While we have made tremendous discoveries about the oceans over the last few decades, we have also caused more destruction to the sea than ever before. Many fisheries stocks are overfished, catastrophic fishing techniques are destroying the habitats and depleting populations, many marine species are on the verge of extinction, coral reefs are dying, pollution run-offs from agricultural farms are creating dead-zones where nothing can grow or live, millions of gallons of oil have devastated the Gulf of Mexico, bigger and faster container ships create noise pollution for marine mammals and endangers them…The list goes on, and on. We have had so much impact that we have actually changed the pH of the oceans! 

Pretty overwhelming, uh? 

So yes, you should care, because if the oceans crash, we as a species are crashing with them. The entire planet Earth will be gone. And if that’s not enough of a wake-up call for you, I don’t know what else could be!

While all the current marine conservation issues appear huge and insurmountable, there is still hope. Each individual can make a difference now. YOU can make better choices about which fish to consume (or not at all!) and ask about the way they were caught or raised, YOU can encourage sustainable fishing practices, YOU can decide not to use fertilizer or pesticides in your backyard, YOU can bring your own reusable bag to the grocery store and stop using plastics, YOU can stop using products with microbeads, YOU can participate in beach clean-ups, YOU can start your own research and discover even more awesome things about the oceans… YOU can spread the word to your skeptic friends! Have people follow in your footsteps; inspire your friends and family. Be the change :) !

(Photo source: Flickr)

“If you want to have an impact on history and help secure a better future for all that you care about, be alive now” - Sylvia Earle

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TESTUDINE TUESDAY

-Classification-

Common Name: Green Sea Turtle

Aliases: Green Turtle, Black Sea Turtle, Pacific Green Turtle

Scientific Name: Chelonia mydas


                                                   Kingdom: Animalia

                                                    Phylum: Chordata

                                                       Class: Reptilia

                                                     Order: Testudines

                                                  Suborder: Cryptodira

                                                  Clade: Americhelydia

                                                   Family: Cheloniidae

                                                      Genus: Chelonia

                                                     Species: C.mydas


-General Info-

Size: Adults can reach up to 5 feet long (1.5 meters).

Weight: Adults can weigh up to 150 - 419 pounds (68 - 190 kilograms).

Carapace Length (Shell): Adults on average have a shell length between 31 - 44 inches (78 - 112 centimeters).

Gender Differences: Males have a slightly longer tail and are overall larger than females in size. Males also have longer claws on their front flippers. However, both do have paddle-like flippers which aid in their swimming. 

Lifespan (Wild): Green Sea Turtles that reach maturity can live for roughly 80 years.

Diet: Juvenile Green Sea Turtles are initially carnivorous (diet consists mainly or exclusively of meat) eating things like mollusks (snails and clams), sponges, algae, and even fish eggs. As they’re maturing, they’ll incorporate plants into their diet and are considered omnivorous (diet consists of both meats and plants). Once they’re fully-grown adults, most of them are herbivores and have cut out meat in their diets due to their serrated jaw (saw-like) which helps them chew plant life like various sea grasses and algae.

Group: A group of Sea Turtles is called a bale.

                                          

-Habitat and Lifestyle-

Life Cycle: Almost everyone knows that Sea Turtles hatch from eggs that are laid on beaches in Southeast Asia, India, western Pacific islands, and Central America. One of the most dangerous events in a Sea Turtle’s life happens as soon as they hatch. As they attempt to flee into the ocean they may be attacked by predators like birds and crabs; a big percentage of hatchlings won’t make it to the water. Juveniles who did make it to the water spend anywhere from 3 - 5 years in the deep ocean. After their years of exploration, the juveniles will find shallow watered areas to call home for the rest of their days. Sadly, estimations say that only about 1% of Sea turtle hatchlings will make it to sexual maturity which occurs after about 20 - 50 years. Finally, once mating occurs the female will breach the ocean’s surface past the high tide line of the beach to lay her eggs. She then returns back to the sea. 

Breeding: Mating occurs every 2 - 4 years.

Gender Deciding Factors: Nests in areas above 30 degrees Celsius tend to favor female hatchlings whereas areas below 30 degrees Celsius tend to favor male hatchlings. Egg positioning also plays a role in whether a hatchling may be male or female. If the egg is more towards the center of the nest then it has a higher chance of resulting in a female hatchling due to the center being warmer.

Number of Eggs per Nest: Each nest will contain about 110 eggs.

Number of Nests per Season: On average, a female Sea Turtle can create 2 - 8 nests in a single season.

Habitats: Generally, Green Sea Turtles stay near island and continental coastlines. Depending on their stage in life, Green Sea Turtles can be found in many different types of environments. Younger juveniles can be found in the open ocean as they spend years swimming around before they settle down. Older juveniles and mature adults will find permanent residence in areas that are more shallow like coral reefs, seagrass beds near shore, and salt marshes. These areas are generally good spots for protecting the turtles. Globally, you can find Sea Turtles in warm tropical waters to subtropical waters. 

                  

-Role in the Ecosystem and Endangerment-

Ecosystem Roles: In the varying areas Sea Turtles can be found, they have a strikingly powerful role to play in each. For instance, on the beaches where their eggs lay cracked and empty, key nutrients are given to the ecosystem through the eggshells. For the turtles located in the seagrass beds, they feed on the seagrass and in doing so they improve the health and development of the seagrass; this in turn results in a suitable habitat and place for feeding for various species of fish and crustaceans (crabs, shrimp, barnacles, crayfish, etc). 

Conservation Status: Green Sea Turtles are listed as Endangered whereas some subpopulations in the Mediterranean are listed as Critically Endangered. Some human-caused threats include being hunted, poached, and having their eggs collected. Whereas accidental threats like boats, pollution, habitat destruction, and fishing nets are reducing the population as well. 

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Since it’s on our social media pages, I can finally tell y'all this story.

Last week, our little Pokey butt helped save a life! The vet from the marine science center just south of us had a sick kemp’s ridley being rehabilitated that needed a blood transfusion, and we were able to help out! Though Pokey has a shoulder disease that impacts his ability to survive in the ocean, he is otherwise a healthy turtle. The donation of his blood helped the sick animal recover, and the staff is hopeful for a full recovery and release of the turtle.

I feel so privileged to have been a part of this. The turtle I care for every day helped save the life of another endangered turtle like himself! This incredibly tangible aspect of species conservation was a huge reminder of why I love my job and why I do the things I do. This right here is what zoos and aquariums are all about. Together we are an awesome, awesome force for good.

The Do's and Don'ts of Scuba Diving

Whether you are just starting out as a new diver, or have logged thousands of dives already, scuba diving still brings the same sensations and star-struck feelings every time. However, it is important to remember a few good, ocean-friendly practices while you are diving to best protect our marine environment. 

  • Do not stand up on your fins, especially on corals. Practice good finning and buoyancy to avoid accidental contact with the reef or stirring up the sediment. Many coral species and smaller animals are very sensitive, and you will be killing them instantly if you stand on the reef. 

(Do not stand on the reef. You will cause physical damage to creatures that have taken years to get to that size. Photo source: Wikipedia.)

  • Do not touch anything. First of all, you never know what you may be touching, and it can sting you or be extremely poisonous. You might even come in contact with powerfully venomous fishes such as scorpionfishes, who blend in extremely well with their surroundings. Second of all, you touching corals can harm them, transmit bacteria or diseases, or stress them. You may transmit diseases or remove protective coatings on fish, mammals, invertebrates and other species.

  • On that same note, do not chase or harass marine life.  I have witnessed people chasing poor turtles and hanging on to them while the poor animals were trying to go up to take a breath. Keep clear of free-swimming animals (such as turtles, whales and sea snakes). In particular, do not chase, ride, grab or block the path of these animals. Even if you think it’s cool, do not ride a turtle (they also might bite you!). Do not cowboy a manatee. Do not hold on to the fin of a dolphin or a shark. Look but never touch and try not to get too close. 

(Source: Aquaviews)

  • Do not leave your diving gear dragging on the reef, such as pressure gauges or regulators. Keeping gear close to your body reduces drag and the chances of entanglement. Sea life is everywhere and can be harmed by the kick of a fin, bump of a tank, or knock of the hand.
  • Do not wear gloves. Or at least when the temperature allows you not to. Gloves only bring you a false sense of security which may lead you to holding on underwater. This can cause corals to break, or allow you to get too close to marine life by holding onto rocks and can lead to you harming yourself as gloves will not actually provide reliable protection against dangerous marine life.

(Refrain from wearing dive gloves, as they may give you a false sense of security and you will be more likely to hang on to the reef. Photo source: Greenpeace)

  • Do not bring anything up to the surface, other than recent trash. Similarly, don’t buy souvenirs of corals or marine life – this encourages people to remove tons of alive or dead marine life from marine ecosystems each year for selling to tourists. If we didn’t buy it then people wouldn’t collect it. Leave it where it belongs.
  • Do not feed the fishes. Feeding fish or any other species can lead to them becoming reliant upon that food source. It makes fish more aggressive towards divers and can lead to species interacting with others which they wouldn’t naturally come into contact with. 

(Pick up any recent trash you might encounter. Photo source: Project Aware).

  • Do pick up trash, plastic bags or any other recent littered items.

  • Do respect the marine environment, only observe the sensitive and fragile species that live within it. All divers should refrain from intrusive and damaging interactions such as handling marine life or manipulating it.
  • Do learn about the local ecosystem before your dive, and what animals you may be able to spot while diving. 

  • Do practice good buoyancy and refrain from touching the bottom with your fins and body. Practice buoyancy control over sand patches before approaching a reef - test buoyancy whenever you’re using new equipment such as new wetsuits, buoyancy control devices (BCDs) and cameras. Remember to always lift your feet up!

(This is the ideal diving position you would like to maintain throughout your dive. A streamlined horizontal position, keeping your feet up, and your hands to yourself will give you low water resistance! Photo source: Ilios Dive Club)

  • Do patronize reef-friendly dive shops, hotels and tourist operators that promote eco-friendly practices. 
  • Do lead by example. Remember that other divers may look up to you. If they see you touching or manipulating sea life, they will assume it is alright to do so. Similarly, if they see you pick up trash, they may start doing it in their future dives. Be an ambassador for good, eco-friendly diving practices.

  • Do stay humble. You are in their world for a limited amount of time. Enjoy the wonder and amazement that is our marine life, and do not act like you own the place and can do whatever pleases you.
  • Have fun!  Every dive is different and a chance to discover more natural wonders.

(Source: Splash Dive)

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DIVER SAVES SEA TURTLE AND RECEIVES ADORABLE THANK YOU

Not every story about sea life mistakenly caught in a net ends this beautifully, so it’s important to recognize when one does.

So watch the full video here and learn this turtles story.

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Using infrared lighting, a live-streaming, high-definition “turtle webcam” positioned on a beach in the Florida Keys recorded the hatch of about 100 baby loggerhead sea turtles on Friday, July 25, just before 9 p.m.
The 3-inch-long babies erupted from a hole, came out en masse and headed to the Atlantic Ocean under dim moonlight.

The camera uses infrared lighting so hatchlings won’t be confused by artificial light and will go to sea — guided by moonlight reflecting on the water – instead of pushing further onto land.

This large male Green sea turtle came into the reef for a much needed clean. I took a couple photos and then just sat with it for ten minutes as it got cleaned. It must have been at sea for a long time to be this dirty, or maybe it keeps getting creeped out by people staring at him every time he tries to get cleaned. It was such an old turtle, I cried I was so happy to share a moment with such an amazing creature. Currently listed as Endangered by the IUCN Red list. 

youtube

I was very impressed with the diving in Indonesia, and as most of you know, I find the Indonesian Government does a lot to protect its marine environment.

As it should! It is one of the most biologically diverse places on earth! And the amount of fish in this video is overwhelming.

Did I mention the mantas? There is MANTAS!

WATCH!!!!

The Green Sea turtle is not called green because that is it’s colour, but instead it’s the colour of their fatty tissues internally.

Male Green Sea Turtle.

Righteous!

I have talked about it before, but can you remember how to tell a turtle's gender?

I am so happy I had the chance to spend some up close personal time with my favourite sea creatures. They truly are beautiful. I hope you all enjoyed my turtle spam, because there will be more eventually.