Loggerhead turtle beached in the Netherlands


This video says about itself:

Loggerhead Sea Turtle Hatchling Rescue

23 July 2014

Words cannot describe…

I came across some baby sea turtle tracks one morning at the refuge and noticed many of the tracks went up into the dune instead of directly to the water. A quick search revealed several hatchlings floundering in the dune vegetation.

As the acting refuge biologist, I am permitted to handle these protected turtles for purpose of rescue. This was an amazing opportunity for me to examine these amazing creatures up close and personal, a rare and priceless occurrence.

These animals are protected, please do not approach them in the wild.

Music by Dan-O at DanoSongs.com

Translated from the Dutch RAVON herpetologists:

Thursday, August 27th, 2015

Recently a loggerhead turtle washed ashore at the Hondsbossche seawall near Camperduin. This year already two loggerheads washed up on our beaches. Up to now, this is the tenth individual ever found in the Netherlands. …

On July 27 Ber van Perlo while watching birds found a dead turtle on the beach at the Hondsbossche seawall near Camperduin and De Putten. It was a not yet adult loggerhead (Caretta caretta) with an estimated carapace length of 55 to 60 centimeters. Adult specimens have a carapace length of 83 to 124 centimeters. …

That a loggerhead turtle washed ashore in the Netherlands is very special! The first documentation of a loggerhead in the Netherlands was in 1707. This is the 10th individual:

1707 Wijkmeer, Beverwijk (IJmuiden)
1894 Ouddorp, Goeree-Overflakkee
1927 Scheveningen
1954 Noordwijk
1959 Noordwijk
1998 Flushing
2007 Vlieland
2008 Groote Keeten
2015 Katwijk
2015 Hondsbossche Zeewering, Petten

Swimming with snapping turtles, video


This video from Canada says about itself:

15 July 2015

Swimming with large snapping turtles in Parry Sound. When approached slowly, these creatures don’t show any aggression and almost no fear. These two were looking for food and checking out the camera as I swam around with them for hours.

Good Florida sea turtle news


This video from the USA says about itself:

Baby Turtles Being Born on the Beach

13 September 2013

Leatherback turtles hatching and marching towards the ocean in Vero Beach, Florida.

From NPR in the USA:

Florida Sea Turtles Stage Amazing Comeback

July 13, 2015 4:42 PM ET

When scientists first started counting the nests of green sea turtles in one area in the 1980s, they found fewer than 40 nests. In their last check, they counted almost 12,000.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

In Florida, sea turtles are making a comeback. The green turtle is leading the way. It’s a species that a few decades ago was close to disappearing from the state, and the scope of its recovery is virtually unprecedented for an endangered species in the United States. As Amy Green of member station WMFE reports, the gains are most apparent at a refuge on Florida’s east coast. It’s the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge in Melbourne Beach, and it’s one of the most significant sea turtle nesting sites in the world.

AMY GREEN, BYLINE: A sea turtle emerges from the waves alone, in darkness. At 3 feet long and 300 pounds, her barnacle-encrusted body is cumbersome on land, accustomed to weightlessness.

HEATHER STAPLETON: They look like an ancient dark behemoth.

GREEN: That’s Heather Stapleton of the Sea Turtle Conservancy, a research and conservation organization for the reptiles that are as old as dinosaurs.

STAPLETON: She comes up out of the surf, and she’s there. She lifts her head up a couple of times, usually, in the air to take breaths and kind of feel her way around.

GREEN: She finds a nesting site well above the tide. Her breathing is labored as her flippers fling sand over her eggs, concealing them from predators during their two-month incubation. The Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1991 to preserve this 20-mile beach on Florida’s east coast for nesting sea turtles like this one. It’s working.

LOU EHRHART: As a scientist, I have to be a little bit careful about how I throw the word miracle around, but yes, I agree that, in this case, it is really quite extraordinary.

GREEN: Lou Ehrhart is a University of Central Florida researcher who has counted sea turtle nests in this refuge since the mid-’80s. He says the green turtle‘s recovery is especially astounding.

EHRHART: In those first three years, we had 30 or 40 green turtle nests, and the summer before last, we had 11,840. That’s just unheard of.

GREEN: Statewide, sea turtles are thriving. Nearly all of the nation’s sea turtle nests are here in Florida. Most credit the Endangered Species Act, which brought sea turtles under protection in 1978. Sea turtles don’t begin reproducing until their early 20s. That’s why researchers thinks their populations multiply every couple of decades and why we’re seeing a boom now.

Ehrhart also points to state protections of Florida beaches aimed at discouraging development and preserving them for nesting. This is important because while sea turtles can migrate thousands of miles, they almost always return to the same beach to nest.

Sea turtles still face many hurdles. In the United States, all sea turtles remain threatened or endangered. In the Pacific Ocean, leatherback populations are plunging. Back at the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge, this nesting sea turtle is disappearing into the waves.

STAPLETON: Yeah, now she’s going faster.

GREEN: Oh, such relief for her to be floating and weightless again.

She might nest five more times during the summer, laying nearly a thousand eggs. But most baby sea turtles never reach adulthood because of predators and other dangers like dehydration under the sun. She never will know what becomes of them because sea turtles never come back to their nests.

Sea turtle’s view of the Great Barrier Reef, video


This video says about itself:

9 July 2015

The Great Barrier Reef is home to almost 6000 species. Thanks to GoPro, here’s what the journey through it looks like for one of them: a turtle’s eye view of the Reef

In order to find out more about the level of pollution affecting turtles within the Great Barrier Reef, WWF Australia are working on an innovative project in Queensland with the support of partners Banrock Station Wines Environmental Trust, James Cook University, University of Queensland, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, State and Commonwealth government agencies, Indigenous rangers and local community groups. As part of that project, the opportunity arose to very carefully fit a small GoPro camera to a turtle, to better understand the post-release behavior of tagged green turtles. The result is this amazing video.

A full ban on dumping in the Great Barrier Reef should happen in a matter of months. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Committee voted to maintain pressure on Australia to deliver on its promise to restore the health of the reef. Thank you to our 500,000 WWF supporters who spoke up to defend the reef!

Credit: Dr Ian Bell / Christine Hof

Gull, turtle, seal conservation works


This video from Spain shows Audouin’s gulls, with chicks.

From BirdLife:

Gulls, turtles and seals, three marine triumphs

By Bruna Campos, Mon, 06/07/2015 – 14:30

Marine wildlife in Europe has long been suffering because of human activities. Although we have a lot of work to do still, here are three marine stories that show the Nature Directives work when they are put to good use.

1) A special gull – and you thought they were all the same!

We all remember the gulls in ‘Finding Nemo’, portrayed as lazy, dumb, and incapable of saying anything besides one word: ‘mine’. Gulls are a group of seabirds that have a pretty bad reputation (a.k.a. ‘the flying rats’). Like rats, gulls are often perceived as dirty and diseased scavengers of food. They stir negative emotions like gangs of thieves would – stealing your sandwiches before you’ve even had a chance to take a bite!

As a side note, a gull’s klepto-parasitism isn’t just against humans, although we tend to think very highly of our species, we find a gull’s behaviour very offensive – that they would dare steal or eat our food without permission. However, I would like to introduce you to another side of the gull. Watch one long enough and you’ll notice an incredible display of acrobatics, patience, and simply straight out cheekiness (in a cute way). Like most other parents, gulls are protective and very aggressive against anything approaching their nest – hence the famous sky dive attacks you may have already experienced. Like many seabirds, they mate for life – although divorces do happen with some social problems for a couple of years.

There are 20 species of gull in Europe, and although they share a similar build, they are all quite different, some having more pronounced looks than others. One in particular, Audouin’s Gull, which can only be found in the Mediterranean, is unlike many of its cousins because it rarely scavenges. Rather, it’s a specialist coastal and pelagic fish eater (not to say that they wouldn’t pass off diving for an easy fish that has been thrown away by a fisher at sea). It was one of the world’s rarest gulls in 1975, with only 1,000 pairs. Protection under the Birds Directive led to the creation and implementation of a European action plan which has helped secure its survival, especially in Spain.

Several projects were implemented that contributed to successful re-colonisation of breeding islands and the control of invasive black rats which were predating colonies. Today, with the most recent assessment of the European birds (the European Red List of Birds), we can say that the Audouin’s Gull has the lowest level of extinction risk with around 21,000 pairs. But we must be cautious. Although there has been improvement, particularly in Spain, much more still needs to be done across the Mediterranean to ensure that this gull continues to survive, such as implementing safe fishing gears to stop fishers from accidentally catching gulls in their fishing lines and nets.

2) Sea turtle’s little helpers are saving the day

Sea turtle volunteers run the beaches of Zakynthos in Greece (for Brits, the island is also called ‘Zante’). Before tourists can sprawl all over the sand, sea turtle ‘human little helpers’ make sure they know exactly what is going on with the turtles. How are they doing this, you might wonder? Well, they get up very early and work all morning before daybreak to find out the number of nests laid and their location. They also spend countless nights tagging as many turtles as they can that stride up on the beach to nest. They then run around the beaches alerting tourists about these wonderful creatures, and to not sit in places on the beach where they might break some eggs.

How is all of this relevant to the ‘Nature Directives’? Well,  Loggerhead Sea Turtle, the creature these little helpers are working hard for, are protected by the Habitats Directive. These turtles are widespread and highly migratory, and are endangered globally. So it is only with strict nature legislation and management plans that we can stop their decline. Little helpers please continue doing what you are doing now – you’re making a difference, and we hope in the future to see loggerhead numbers increase.

3) The seal that tried to be common

Take a boat trip along the Frisian coast: can you spot that seal? Probably yes! Lucky you, because if it wasn’t for the Habitats Directive, that seal could be long gone by now. Despite being called ‘Common Seal’, during the last 100 years intense hunting and disease caused its decline in Europe. To help them recover, shooting was banned. However, seals were then hit hard in the 1980s by a disease called phocine distemper, which causes uncontrollable periodic population crashes. Although disease and pollution still threaten the species, hunting restrictions, habitat protection and improved management, especially working with fishers, have helped increase numbers to now over 81,000 in Europe. Thanks again for helping Nature Directives.

These marine comebacks remind us that it is in our power to prevent the loss of a species forever. Nevertheless, we are very far from ensuring the safety of our seabirds and other marine creatures and we must do more. The Birds and Habitats Directives are here to help us with this, but their implementation is fundamental to secure the continued survival of all our marine animals.

Triassic turtle evolution, new research


This video says about itself:

Evolution of the Turtle Shell (Illustrated)

30 May 2013

Evolution of the turtle shell based on developmental and fossil data. This animation is based on the work of Dr. Tyler Lyson, currently at the Smithsonian Institution.

The animation shows how various fossils, particularly Eunotosaurus and Odontochelys, bridge the morphological gap between a generalized animal body plan to the highly modified body plan found in living turtles.

The paper, published in Current Biology, can be found here.

Animation by Stroma Studios.

From the Washington Post in the USA:

How the turtle got its shell, a not-so ‘Just So’ story

By Sarah Kaplan

June 25 at 5:22 AM

Long, long ago, in a time so far in the past it preceded the dinosaurs and the continents, lived a tiny creature named “grandfather turtle.” It had many of the qualities of the turtles we know and love today: a boxy body, plodding legs, a long neck topped by a small, round head.

It was only missing one thing: a shell.

Thanks to the newly discovered fossil of that tiny creature, scientists say they have solved the story of how the turtle got its shell. But this is no Rudyard Kipling fable. It’s science.

The not-so “Just So” story, published in the journal Nature on Wednesday, tracks the evolution of the turtle body plan through millions of years of history. By examining fossils that spanned millennia and continents, researchers were able to figure out how the modern turtle’s unique shell evolved from what was just a brief expanse of belly bones about 240 million years ago.

The origin of the turtle shell has long bewildered scientists (this was, apparently, the one natural phenomenon Kipling hadn’t written a story to explain). Though they had fossils of turtle predecessors from the beginning and the end of the Triassic period, there was little evidence of what happened to ancient turtles during the intervening years. The bones of the 260 million-year-old Eunotosaurus, a reptilian creature found in South Africa, had wide, flat ribs and a sprawling, turtle-like figure, but it was far from the armor-encased animal we know today.

The next time a turtle ancestor popped up in the fossil record, the Odontochelys about 220 million years before present, it had a fully developed belly plate called a “plastron” that would eventually expand to enclose the turtle’s whole body, protecting it from attacks from above and below. (The first turtle with a true shell wouldn’t appear on the scene until about 6 million years after that.)

But there was nothing in the yawning 40 million-year void between the two ancient species to explain where that plastron came from.

“Hopefully we’ll find more,” Robert Reisz, a paleontologist at the University of Toronto, told National Geographic after the Odontochelys was first found in 2008. “We’re closing the gap, but there is still a big morphological gap between this turtle and its non-turtle ancestors.”

Enter Pappochelys, the hero of our story, ready and willing to fill that gap.

Pappochelys, whose name means “grandfather turtle,” lived about 240 million years ago in a warm sub-tropical lake, Hans-Dieter Sues, a co-author of the Nature study and curator at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in D.C., told NPR. Discovered in a limestone quarry near Stuttgart, Germany, it is the precise chronological and morphological midpoint between the two previously known fossils: about eight inches from tip to tail, it had slender legs and an oddly boxy body with a rib cage that looked like the beginnings of a “little bony house.”

This physiological setup was good for protection and also worked as “bone ballast,” according to Smithsonian, allowing the animal to control its buoyancy in the water.

In addition, the Pappochelys had a series of hard, shell-like bones lining its belly — the beginnings of the plastron that would turn up 20 million years later.

“It has real beginnings of the belly shell developing, little rib-like structures beginning to fuse together into larger plates and then ultimately making up the belly shell,” Sues told NPR.

Sues’s co-author, Rainer R. Schoch, a paleontologist at the Staatliches Museum für Naturkunde in Stuttgart, called Pappochelys a “transitional creature,” one that illustrates how ancient lizards became modern turtles.

“Transitional creatures are the most important contribution that paleontology can make to the study of evolution,” Schoch told Voice of America. “They are often unexpected and show surprising features.”

And, in Pappochelys case, they tell pretty good stories.