Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Happy World Oceans Day 2010!

One of the privileges of living on or near the ocean is the ability to witness the various cycles of our unique wildlife. Here is a photo essay, taken yesterday by a neighbor, of a loggerhead turtle coming ashore to lay her eggs. I've added information about the loggerheads. What a great way to celebrate World Oceans Day especially in the midst of the devastating BP Oil spill. Enjoy! 

Once loggerhead turtles reach breeding age, approximately 9 - 10 
years old they come back to the same beach where they were born !
The nesting period ranges from May to August with incubation 
times varying between 45 and 90 days and the average for Florida 
around 60 days.
Once they lay the eggs, usually fairly close to our dunes, 
volunteers drive the beach in a small beach jeep (like a golf 
cart with beach tires) each morning to locate, mark and check 
on the nests. These dedicated folks are called "The Turtle Patrol"
Heading back to the water is a slow process and will be the 
same path the baby turtles will take when they are born, usually 
at night and approximately 60 days from now.
They use their flippers not only to swim but to bury the 
approximately 100 eggs. Nests are often lost to predators such 
as raccoons, dogs and ghost crabs as well as shoreline erosion. 
Loggerheads are the largest hard-shelled turtle in the world 
and grow to about 200 lbs with a approx life span of 30 yrs. 
Loggerheads are known to nest between 1 and 4 times per 
season at intervals of approximately 14 days.
Florida loggerheads’ migratory path follows an enormous 
circular current system known as the North Atlantic gyre. 
Water in the gyre is relatively warm, and food is abundant. 
But outside the gyre, conditions are less favorable, and 
turtles that stray from the route often die from the cold.
Working in Florida, scientists have found what they 
believe is the strongest evidence yet that baby loggerhead 
turtles "read" the Earth’s magnetic field to help them navigate 
the massive clockwise current that sweeps the northern 
Atlantic Ocean.
Loggerheads feed on mollusks, crustaceans, fish and other 
marine animals.
A slow swimmer compared to other sea turtles, the loggerhead 
occasionally falls prey to sharks, and individuals missing flippers 
or chunks of their shell are not an uncommon sight.
However the loggerhead compensates for its lack of speed 
with stamina - for example a loggerhead that had been tagged 
at Melbourne Beach, FL was captured off the coast of Cuba 
11 DAYS LATER!
"To me, one of the great wonders of the world is that baby 
sea turtles enter the ocean and then swim across the Atlantic 
and back all by themselves," said Dr. Kenneth J. Lohmann, associate 
professor of biology at UNC at Chapel Hill.

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