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Sea turtles nesting, Nicaragua

Green turtle – Christian Vizl

The green turtle is not named for the colour of its shell, which is olive-brown, but for its greenish colour fat. It feeds on seagrass or algae and makes long migrations from feeding to nesting grounds – Brazilian green turtles migrate 2,250km to get to Ascension Island. The temperature at which their eggs are incubated determines the gender of the young, with hotter temperatures producing more females, leading to a skewed gender ratio and fewer opportunities to procreate. It is threatened by fishing for its meat and to produce tourist curios.

Photograph: Christian Vizl/Wildscreen 2017

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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. 

Olive Ridley Turtles return to the sea after laying their eggs in the sand at Rushikulya Beach, south-west of Bhubaneswar. Thousands of sea turtles came ashore from the Bay of Bengal to lay their eggs on the beach, which is one of three mass nesting sites in the Indian coastal state of Orissa

Photograph: Asit Kumar/AFP/Getty Images

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The Birth of Baby Turtles

On the Caribbean Island of Bonaire volunteers have helped hundreds of young turtles make the first move from the land to the sea. Exactly 52 days turtle eggs were buried caring mother on one of the island’s beaches. As the organizers explained: “Next to this beach is the airport where a lot of bright light sources, so the turtles instinctively crawl into its territory, instead of what would go into the ocean”

Golden Ghost Crab (Ocypode convexa)

Also known as the Western Ghost Crab or Yellow Ghost Crab, the golden ghost crab is a species of ghost crab (Ocypode spp.) which is endemic to the coast of Western Australia, ranging from Broome to Perth. Golden ghost crabs are common inhabitants of open sandy beaches, living in burrows in the intertidal and supratidal zones. They are predominately nocturnal and semi-terrestrial, emerging are night to feed on carrion, debris, and occasionally small invertebrates. They are also known to feed on sea turtle hatchlings and are one of the main predators of loggerhead sea turtle eggs and hatchlings.  

Classification

Animalia-Arthropoda-Crustacea-Malacostraca-Decapoda-Brachyura-ocypodidae-Ocypodinae-Ocypode-O. convexa

Image: Gnaraloo Turtle Conservation Program

Sea Turtle Bowl
Five sea turtles crawl across the sand on this medium size serving bowl (4 in. high x 8.25 in. diameter). In the spring sea turtles lay eggs on the beach by the light of the moon. After covering them with sand, they make their way back to the ocean. If all goes well, the eggs hatch after approximately two months, and the little ones find their way to the water in the dark to begin their lives at sea. Imagine them swimming on your table!

The call of the sea… Captive bred baby sea turtles are released and immediately paddle off over the sand towards the sea, Ujong Pancu, Aceh Besar, in Aceh province, Indonesia. Local environmental activists have established a breeding programme, in response to the number of sea turtle eggs that are being stolen by poachers. 
Indonesia is situated at a point where several important migration routes converge. The Pacific and Indian Oceans are home to six out of seven of the world’s sea turtle species. Photo taken on March 15th 2016. Credit: AFP/Chaideer Mahyuddin

More sea turtles will be born female as climate warms, study shows (The Guardian)

Hotter sands triggered by a warming climate could cause greater numbers of sea turtles to be born female, increasing the reptiles’ numbers in the short term, research shows.

But the study, published in the scientific journal Nature Climate Change, warns that once the sands in which sea turtle eggs incubate grow too warm, the population could become entirely female, risking the animal’s extinction.

“Sea turtles are unusual in that the gender of the offspring is not driven by sex chromosomes, as in humans,” said Professor Graeme Hays, one of the lead authors of the study.

Instead, a sea turtle’s sex is determined by the temperature of the sand in which the female turtle buries her eggs.

It’s that time of year again! Sea turtle nesting season starts today! Nesting season runs from May through October, and usually the first nests will hatch right around July. Just a few friendly reminders:

  • Lights out! Baby sea turtles instinctively follow the brightest light (which should be the moon) out to the ocean, but lights from houses, condos, and roads can easily distract them. If you live near the water, keeping your lights off will give the little guys a better chance of making it to the ocean. Also, red or orange lights are a great alternative to white lights; since sea turtles see poorly in the red/orange spectrum, red lights are a great way to light your beach and keep the turtles safe at the same time.
  • Be sure to keep your beaches clean. Nesting sea turtles will often become disoriented by cluttered beaches, and unnecessary debris can easily block a newborn hatchling’s path to the water. Something as simple as picking up a piece of trash can make a big difference.
  • If you see a turtle nest (either marked or unmarked) be sure not to disturb it; disturbing the eggs can disrupt their development, and it is in fact illegal. Tampering with nests can earn you a hefty fine, or even jail time. If you see someone getting to close, politely ask them to give the nest some space. If they persist, contact a lifeguard or authorities to let them know; they’ll take it from there.
  • If you happen to find any hatchlings on the beach that are injured, stuck on shore, or in a place that isn’t the ocean, do not collect them yourself. Contact a lifeguard, authorities, Fish and Wildlife, or your local sea turtle patrol. Keep an eye on the nest while someone comes to assist you.
  • Sea turtles typically lay their eggs late at night, but if you do happen upon a mother laying her eggs, do not disturb her. You may watch, but keep a good distance from her, and keep your lights low. Birth is stressful; give mama her space. 
  • In areas where sea turtles are populous, nesting patrols are common, and always in need of volunteers! Contact your local sea turtle patrol if you’re interested in helping out.

Guinea-Bissau and the Bissagos islands

The coast of Guinea-Bissau in West Africa is pictured in this image from the Landsat-8 satellite. Mangrove swamps are abundant along this coastline, acting as important feeding grounds for fish, birds and animals.

Flowing from the east, the Geba River empties into the Atlantic Ocean, with the country’s capital city of Bissau located on the river estuary. The city appears as a light brown area in the upper-central portion of the image.

Off the coast in the lower-left section of the image are the Bissagos (or Bijagós) islands – an archipelago of over 80 islands and islets. In 1996 the archipelago was declared a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.

A diversity of mammals, reptiles, birds and fish can be found on the islands, including protected or rare species such as the Nile crocodile, hippopotamus, African manatee and the common bottlenose dolphin. The archipelago has also been recognised as an important site for green sea turtles to lay their eggs.

In the lower left corner, the island of Orango looks like a tree, with the waterways like branches and land appears as foliage. This island is the centre of a national park, and is known for its matrimonial tradition where marriage is formally proposed by the women – who are also responsible for building the homes.

Image credit: USGS/ESA

The floating algae of the Sargasso Sea offers precious food and shelter for hundreds of animal species. Small invertebrates cling to the sargassum, attracting larger predators, whose wastes in turn fertilize the algae.

The ocean currents that collect Sargassum also sweep up drifting jellyfish and the jellylike Portuguese man-of-war. Feeding on its stinging tentacles, which do not harm them, are small man-of-war fish. When a loggerhead turtle approaches, the fleeing fish are attacked by dolphinfish. 

When baby sea turtles emerge from their eggs and scramble into the sea, the young hatchlings head for distant feeding grounds such as the Sargasso Sea, where they feast on jellies, snails, crabs and shrimp in relative safety until they grow larger.

Find this diorama in the Milstein Hall of Ocean Life.

Alright so about this mongoose pokemon

Some people are reacting strongly to this pokemon and hey that’s fair, but there is a really interesting reason for why this pokemon exists. 

Back in the 1800′s people who weren’t native to Hawaii came over to set up sugar cane plantations and with them came the thing that comes with every traveling conqueror. Rats.

These rats were a Huge problem and caused a lot of destruction. Eventually someone had the bright idea that since mongooses eat small mammals (and anything they can get their small teeth on) they would be and excellent way to take care of the rodent problem.

So the plantation owners brought them to the island, patted themselves on the back for being very clever, and thought their problems to be over.

Except

Rats are nocturnal and mongooses are diurnal.

They hardly interacted at all. So instead of getting rid of one pest there was now two destructive organisms to deal with (And many more invasives to come). In Hawaii today, mongooses prey upon endangered birds, sea turtle eggs, and all sorts of little critters. They generally cause a lot of trouble.

Back to this pokemon in particular, on top of being a mongoose this pokemon is categorized as the “Loitering Pokemon”. It hangs around without a real purpose and people generally don’t want it to be there. Could this pokemon’s offsetting appearance be intentional? Maybe. It’s biologically destructive history would be easier to ignore if it was cute.

One thing that can be said for certain is that since Yungoos is around, it is likely that rattata will be in the Alola region as well.

Found my first Olive Ridley nest! We didn’t see the mama but the eggs were thankfully still there even though we’d seen poachers on the beach all night. We (and these babies) lucked out tonight—the eggs were moved to our hatchery where they’ll be under 24-hour guarding.

What a fantastic experience.