Okay, who wants to see hatchlings?

August 23, 2006

Those of us who are lucky enough to be here this time of year get to see literally thousands of them. Leatherbacks rarely, but loggerheads and greens – well the place is just crawling with them! So here are some pics for those of you far away. Each year it is always a surprise to see how tiny they are when they start out life. And they have such a long way to go until they reach maturity – if they make it. The most recent estimates are that 1 in 3000 – 5000 make it to maturity. Which is why the adults that have made it to reproductive age are so important to sea turtle populations.

Without further ado, we give you hatchlings!

The Kiddie Pool

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Green (left) and loggerhead

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Two loggerheads – the color variation is normal

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Smile and say “loggerhead!”

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This is from last year – leatherbacks are in constant motion which
is why we release them the day we get them.

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How lucky is Fiona?

August 22, 2006

We have had several reminders in the past few weeks of how lucky Fiona is to be alive. One of our more unpleasant duties here is to document dead turtles when they wash in. We consider it unpleasant because none of us like to see dead turtles. Yesterday we had just such a call from Singer Island. It turned out to be a large adult female loggerhead that had been hit by a boat propeller.

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This is the second adult female loggerhead hit by a boat that we have had in the past two weeks. Of the ten dead turtles that we have documented locally this year, 6 of them have been boat strikes. Which brings me back to Fiona. If those prop strikes had just been a little deeper, she likely would have drowned due to a punctured lung. She’s one lucky turtle.

For those of you who are interested in learning more about sea turtle anatomy, the book by Dr. Jeanette Wyneken, The Anatomy of Sea Turtles, is available online. You can download individual chapters or the entire book by clicking here. It’s the reference we use here at the center for any anatomy questions.


Miracle update

August 21, 2006

Well, Miracle is still hanging in there. At this point, nutrition is an issue because the turtle is not eating at all. We have placed food directly in the mouth hoping it will decide to eat. This technique has been used to encourage other turtles to eat – Thud and Helmut come to mind. But Miracle is not having any of it and spits the food back out.

Last Friday we did tube feed Miracle in an attempt to provide some nutrition. We feed a mixture of prescription pet food and water through a tube we insert down the esophagus. It appears to have gone well and so we will likely start tubing this turtle 2 or 3 times a week until it begins to eat on its own.

Miracle – thanks to Chris Johnson for the photo.

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Lola’s necropsy

August 17, 2006

Yesterday Dr. Mettee conducted a necropsy on Lola to determine cause of death. With all the shell material and concerns about her digestive system we were sure that was where the problem would be. We expected to find a perforated intestine or at least severely damaged sections of intestine related to the immense amount of sand dollars in there (x-ray here).

Turns out the intestine was completely intact and healthy. There was some scarring in the inside of the intestine itself from the sand dollars but it appeared that she was beginning to improve. We saw evidence of this during her last few days – increased appetite, energy and and alertness.

So what went wrong? Congestive heart failure. There was a small tear in the pulmonary trunk and essentially she bled out into the pericardial sac that surrounds the heart. We do not know what caused the weakened part of the pulmonary trunk however, there was a clearly visible lesion in the area. We will send the tissue to a pathologist to try to determine what caused the problem.

Unfortunately, there was nothing we could have done to predict or prevent such an event. Fortunately for Lola it was likely a quick and painless death.

Below is a sea turtle heart, thanks to Dr. Jeanette Wyneken.

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From “The Anatomy of Sea Turtles” Copyright 2001 Jeanette Wyneken


Hugo a go-go

August 17, 2006

It’s been overdue for a while but Hugo finally got the boot. He required a ride to Hutchinson Island for release and other turtle duties kept postponing the trip. Yesterday after the necropsy he was escorted to a lovely empty beach by myself and Dr. Mettee where he crawled into the surf. That is a turtle who never looked back!

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Turtle Personalities

August 15, 2006

Some people claim that these turtles do not have personalities. Those people have not hung around the turtle yard enough and definitely have not met Fiona. That turtle does have a personality and it screams “MORE ROMAINE”. Either that or “Where is my rock for belly scratches?”

It’s actually kind of amusing to watch her after she is done eating the veggies that are tied to the rock – she will use it to scratch her plastron. She swishes herself back and forth across the rock, using it as a scratching post. This is not really unusual behavior for green turtles. They are known to use reefs and rock ledges to scrape their carapace and plastron in the wild.

On another note, is it fair to have a favorite turtle? Or should the turtles here be like kids and pets – you’re not supposed to have a favorite? (Or maybe you do have a favorite but you don’t let them know it!)  There are definite favorites at times amongst the staff here – how about you?  Do you have a favorite – or one that you miss?


Sparrow = Franklin Jr.

August 14, 2006

For those of you who remember Franklin, you will remember that he was an exuberant sub-adult loggerhead that verged on vicious. Getting him out of the tank was always an adventure – mind that beak!

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Franklin a.k.a “The Mangler”

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Well, Sparrow is a bit like “Son of Franklin”. This turtle is still having a really bad attitude about getting injections. If you are wielding the syringe you have to keep track of your hands and that beak because Sparrow is taking the role of dinosaur very seriously (nobody told him that he is not a man-eating dinosaur). Sometimes we are happier than others to see a turtle go – Sparrow’s release will be one of the happy happy ones.

For those of you with iron stomachs and insatiable curiosity (an impaired sense of smell helps too) we are planning to necropsy Lola Wednesday in the vicinity of noon. If you are in the area, please feel free to come on by.

Special thanks to our volunteer Larry who brought in some beautiful Florida lobsters. Joy says thanks! On a good note, she has devoured one live lobster and is increasingly aggressive with the dead ones. Her jaw is improving steadily.