Galapagos giant tortoises return to their island


This 17 June 2020 video says about itself:

Ecuador: ‘Diego’ the turtle, who sired 800 babies and saved his species, returns home after 87 years

Mandatory Credit: Ministry of Environment and Water of Ecuador

‘Diego’, the world’s most famous giant tortoise, returned to Espanola Island in the Galapagos archipelago on Monday after helping breed some 800 turtle hatchlings in captivity, saving his species from extinction.

Diego and 15 other turtles that were part of the project were subjected to a quarantine process and internal deworming. They were then fitted with an identification microchip before leaving Santa Cruz Island on board a boat bound for Espanola Island.

Diego had remained in captivity for decades, helping to multiply the endemic population of giant tortoises from 15 to 2,300, and in so doing becoming recognised as the saviour of his species.

The repopulation project began in the 1960s after experts determined that the population had been reduced to just two males and 12 females.

Florida, USA green turtles’ health research


This July 2016 video from the USA says about itself:

Baby Sea Turtles Hatching at the Beach in Jupiter, Florida

It was around 8pm when they hatched and they all made it to the ocean!

From Florida Atlantic University in the USA:

World’s most complete health analysis of nesting sea turtles conducted in Florida

Study provides critical data for sea turtle conservation and population recovery

June 16, 2020

Summary: The most comprehensive health assessment for a green turtle rookery in the world to date is providing critical insights into various aspects of physiology, biology, and herpesvirus epidemiology of this nesting population. Findings are hopeful for this population of green sea turtles in southeastern Florida, offer important data on the profile of health for future comparative investigations, and suggest that viruses are endemically stable in this nesting population.

While it’s only about a 10-kilometer stretch, Juno Beach is home to one of the largest aggregations of nesting green sea turtles (Chelonia mydas) in Florida and is one of the highest-density nesting beaches in the state. Although this high-profile turtle population has routinely been monitored for nest counts since 1989, an in-depth health assessment of these turtles has never been conducted.

Researchers from Florida Atlantic University’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute and Loggerhead Marinelife Center have conducted the most comprehensive health assessment for a green turtle rookery in the world to date. Findings from the study provide critical insights into various aspects of physiology, biology, and herpesvirus epidemiology of this nesting population and are especially timely as the world observes “Sea Turtle Day.”

Results, recently published in the journal Endangered Species Research, are hopeful for this population of green sea turtles in southeastern Florida and offer important data on the profile of health for future comparative investigations.

“Effective conservation measures cannot take place unless the animals we are trying to protect are healthy,” said Annie Page-Karjian, D.V.M., Ph.D., lead author, assistant research professor and clinical veterinarian at FAU’s Harbor Branch. “Chronological and longitudinal studies of biology, physiology, and overall health in both free-ranging and captive populations are critical for supporting large-scale efforts to promote sea turtle population recovery.”

A total of 4,343 green turtle nests were documented on Juno Beach in 2017, which was the busiest nesting year on record for this beach. For the study, researchers collected blood samples from 60 female green turtles that nested on Juno Beach in 2017. They evaluated a broad suite of biological and health data, including measures of reproductive success, morphometrics, hematology, plasma chemistry, plasma protein fractions, haptoglobin, corticosterone, and measures of oxidative stress, antioxidative capacity, and innate immunity. They also tested for two herpesviruses of green turtles, ChHV5 and ChHV6, which are implicated in fibro-papillomatosis (FP) and respiratory and skin disease, respectively. FP is a debilitating disease of sea turtles characterized by neoplastic growths on the skin, shell, and/or internal organs.

Results showed that all 60 turtles included in the study were in good body condition with no external FP tumors. Five of the 60 turtles (8 percent) tested positive for ChHV5 and all turtles were negative for ChHV6. Of the 41 turtles tested for antibodies to ChHV5 and ChHV6, 29 percent and 15 percent tested positive, respectively, and 10 percent tested positive for antibodies to both viruses. Notably, there were no statistically significant differences between health variables for nesting turtles that tested positive for ChHV5 DNA versus those that tested negative; and also no differences between turtles that tested positive for ChHV5 or ChHV6 antibodies and those that did not. Findings from the study suggest that these viruses are endemically stable in Florida’s adult green sea turtles.

Researchers differentiated between previous viral infection versus recent infection/reactivation, and evaluated the results alongside health analytes to understand whether either infection state was associated with detectable physiological changes.

“The fitness of the turtles examined for this study is likely representative of the health of the ecosystems in which they forage and the oceanic corridors through which they migrate,” said Page-Karjian. “As human activities continue to affect sea turtle population recovery, these comprehensive baseline data from our study will provide a valuable resource for evaluating the impacts of various stressors such as habitat degradation on the population over time and will help inform wildlife and environmental policy management.”

Green turtles are the second most common sea turtle species to nest on the coast of Florida, after loggerhead turtles (Caretta caretta). Sea turtles are considered to be sentinel species of environmental health, whereby sea turtle health is thought to reflect the health of the ecosystems they inhabit. Thus, examining sea turtle health is an important component of any coastal ecosystem health survey that includes sea turtle developmental, foraging, and/or nesting habitat(s).

Conservation threats to sea turtles in Florida are numerous, and include habitat encroachment and pollution, illegal harvesting, artificial beach lighting and coastal armoring, and human interactions such as entanglement, hook ingestion, and boat strike trauma. Diseases, including FP, also directly threaten sea turtle conservation.

How loggerhead sea turtles help biodiversity


This november 2019 video is called Facts: The Loggerhead Sea Turtle.

From Florida State University in the USA:

Loggerhead sea turtles host diverse community of miniature organisms

June 1, 2020

There is a world of life on the backs of loggerhead sea turtles, and it’s more abundant and diverse than scientists knew.

An international team led by Florida State University researchers found that more than double the number of organisms than previously observed live on the shells of these oceanic reptiles, raising important questions about loggerhead sea turtle ecology and conservation.

The study was published in the journal Diversity.

“This suggests loggerhead turtles are hotspots for organism abundance and biodiversity,” said Jeroen Ingels, a researcher with the Florida State University Coastal and Marine Laboratory and lead author of the study. “We suspect that larger organisms that are able to form structures serve as habitats for microscopic creatures and allow for greater levels of abundance and biodiversity.”

Researchers discovered this organism diversity by sampling meiofauna, which are organisms roughly between 1 millimeter and about 0.032 millimeters in size.

The researchers specifically focused on a type of aquatic meiofauna called nematodes, also known as roundworms. Previous research had not considered these tiny creatures when surveying the communities of organisms that live on the backs of loggerhead sea turtles.

“To find nematodes on loggerhead turtle carapaces is no surprise, but when we compared their numbers and diversity to those from other hard surfaces or even on marine plant life, we realized their carapaces abound with this microscopic life, the extent to which had hardly been documented in the past,” Ingels said.

The FSU researchers, together with a team from Brazil led by Professor Giovani dos Santos and Professor Yirina Valdes, sampled the shells from 24 loggerhead turtles that migrated to Florida’s St. George Island in the summer of 2018 to lay eggs.

The researchers examined a forward, middle and posterior section of each shell to see if the different areas had different microscopic communities. To collect their samples, they removed barnacles, then scraped the shells and sponged them down to carefully gather every living creature.

They found thousands of meiofauna organisms. One turtle had more than 146,000 individual organisms living on its carapace. Researchers also found that the posterior section of the shells, closest to the rear flippers, had different communities and a higher diversity of species.

Previous studies of loggerheads had found fewer than 100 different species of any kind living on their shells. By including the nematodes found in this new study, the researchers added at least 111 new species to the list of organisms that can live on the backs of loggerheads. That count doesn’t include other types of meiofauna, meaning the number could be even greater.

The research may help explain a paradox around these miniature creatures: How can the same types of aquatic meiofauna be found in different parts of the world, hundreds or even thousands of miles away? Researchers think they are able to travel large distances on the backs of sea turtles, which could help explain their widespread distribution.

The researchers also found that individual turtles harbor significantly different communities of meiofauna living on their shells.

“Were these turtles colonized by microorganisms in different places?” asked Ingels. “It’s exciting because it means we may be able to infer where loggerheads have been based on the microscopic communities on their shells.”

Tens of thousands of microscopic organisms can colonize loggerhead turtles, which visit remote coasts and beaches during their migration. It makes sense that there would be a connection between the locations frequented by the turtles and the places where the same meiofauna are found, Ingels said. A better understanding of that link could help inform conservation practices for these reptiles.

“Information on key areas used by loggerhead turtles is crucial to inform their management, as it helps identify key threats that they are exposed to,” said Mariana Fuentes, a co-author of the article and assistant professor of oceanography in the FSU Department of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Science.

This research was funded by the Florida Sea Turtle License Plate Grant and the PADI Foundation.

Baby turtles benefit from coronavirus lockdown


This 12 May 2020 video says about itself:

With beaches clear of tourists amid ongoing closures, millions of baby turtles are making their way to the sea 🐢❤️

In US news and current events today, millions of baby Olive Ridley Turtles have hatched on the shore and are making their way back to the ocean in larger numbers than previous years.

The coronavirus pandemic has prompted worldwide lockdowns, effectively clearing beaches of tourist foot traffic.

Baby leatherback turtles, video


This 5 May 2020 video says about itself:

Baby Turtles Hatch And Race To The Ocean | VR 360 | Seven Worlds, One Planet

Leatherback sea turtle hatchlings are just emerging from the sand on a desert island beach in the Caribbean. Stay in and explore as they make their way to the sea for the very first time.

Sea turtle hatchlings, male or female?


This 28 December 2018 video from the USA says about itself:

Facing dangerous predators from above, recently hatched sea turtles struggle to reach the safety of the open ocean.

From Florida Atlantic University in the USA:

Scientists develop new way to identify the sex of sea turtle hatchlings

Study provides crucial step to assess climate change impacts on imperiled turtle species

April 7, 2020

Summary: A new minimally invasive technique greatly enhances the ability to measure neonate turtle sex ratios. This is the first time that differences in sex-specific protein expression patterns have been identified in blood samples of hatchlings with temperature-dependent sex determination. The technique is a crucial step in assessing the impact of climate change on imperiled turtle species and will enable more accurate estimates of hatchling sex ratios at a population level and on a global scale.

Unlike humans, sea turtles and other reptiles like crocodiles do not have sex chromosomes. Their sex is defined during development by the incubation environment. In sea turtles, sex is determined by the nest’s temperature: warmer temperatures produce females and cooler temperatures produce males. It is especially challenging to identify the sex of hatchling sea turtles because they lack external sexual organs and heteromorphic sex chromosomes — no X or Y. To date, there are a limited number of ways to reliably identify sex in turtle hatchlings. With the rapid increase of global temperatures, there is an urgent need to clearly assess sex ratios in these imperiled animals.

Researchers from Florida Atlantic University’s Charles E. Schmidt College of Science have developed a first-of-its-kind technique that is minimally invasive and greatly enhances the ability to measure neonate turtle sex ratios at population levels across nesting sites worldwide. They used this technique to identify sex in neonates of two turtle species: a freshwater turtle (Trachemys scripta) and a marine turtle (Caretta caretta) using analysis of small blood samples. This is the first time that differences in sex-specific protein expression patterns have been identified in blood samples of hatchlings with temperature-dependent sex determination. This research is a crucial step in assessing the impact of climate change on imperiled turtle species.

For the study, published in Scientific Reports, researchers used an immunoassay approach to test samples for the presence of several proteins known to play an important role in sex differentiation. Results of the study showed that anti-müllerian hormone (AMH) can reliably be detected in blood samples from neonate male turtles but not females and can be used as a sex-specific marker.

Researchers verified the sex of the turtles using histology or laparoscopy, which revealed that the new method they developed is 100 percent reliable for identifying sex in both the freshwater turtle and the loggerhead sea turtle in 1- to 2-day-old hatchlings and was 90 percent reliable for identifying sex in 83- to 177-day-old (120 — 160g) loggerhead juveniles.

“The challenges inherent in the methods that are currently being used to identify the sex of neonate turtles with temperature-dependent sex determination is what inspired us to look for an alternative approach,” said Jeanette Wyneken, Ph.D., co-author and a professor of biological sciences in FAU’s Charles E. Schmidt College of Science. “Results from our study provide the field of reptile conservation, and in particular, turtle conservation and management, with a valuable new tool that can be used to accurately assess the sex ratios of hatchlings.”

In comparison to the current molecular methods for sex identification in turtles with temperature-dependent sex differentiation, the approach developed by FAU researchers using blood samples via western blot analysis is quick, minimally invasive (requires a very small volume of blood), and the hatchling turtle can then be released immediately.

“Information from our study should enable other scientists and managers to precisely monitor changes in sex ratios that might arise as a consequence of changes in temperature over time,” said Boris Tezak, Ph.D., senior author who conducted the research as part of his Ph.D. studies at FAU and is now a post-doctoral researcher at Duke University Medical Center. “It also will help them to estimate how climate change will affect future generations of hatchlings, and allow for expedited evaluation of management strategies used to help recover imperiled sea turtles and other reptile species with temperature-dependent sex determination.”

Identifying natural turtle hatchling sex ratios at nesting sites is challenging for a variety of reasons, spanning morphological limitations to ethical issues to a lack of understanding of the mechanisms that actually direct embryonic sexual differentiation. Generally, turtles are characterized by being long-lived and late-maturing, so they are not sexually dimorphic until approaching sexual maturity — marine turtle species often take more than 25 years to become sexually mature.

“Due to the difficulties associated with readily identifying hatchling sex, most large-scale studies investigating turtle hatchling sex ratios rely on proxies to infer sex ratios indirectly such as nest temperatures, air temperatures or nest incubation durations,” said Itzel Sifuentes-Romero, Ph.D., co-author, a post-doctoral fellow of biological sciences in FAU’s Charles E. Schmidt College of Science, and a post-doctoral fellow of FAU’s Brain Institute (I-Brain). “However, these alternatives often fail to match the primary sex ratios from natural turtle nests or rookeries. We believe that the novel technique we have developed will allow for more accurate estimates of hatchling sex ratios at a population level and on a global scale.”

Saving Philippine hawksbill turtles


This 1 April 2020 video says about itself:

Saving Sea Turtles: Philippine community protects hawksbill sea turtle eggs

Hawksbill sea turtles are a critically endangered species of sea turtle. And in the coastal village of Candiis in the Philippines, communities are hard at work trying to protect their nesting grounds — even though they don’t have much resources themselves. Members of the community patrol the nest sites and build fences to protect the eggs from stray dogs.

But sea turtle conservation is becoming a bigger challenge. Construction and rising sea levels are wiping away nesting grounds. Still, the community in Candiis is determined to protect what little nesting grounds remain.

Read more here.

Galapagos tortoises video


This 29 March 2020 video from the USA says about itself:

Home Safari – Galapagos Tortoise – Cincinnati Zoo

Welcome back to our Home Safari! We are going to be taking things slow today with one of the longest-lived animal on earth – the Galapagos tortoise!