Loggerhead Turtles wash up on Irish coasts

During the past month, four loggerhead turtles have washed up along Irish coasts from Wexford to Kerry. These turtles are more typical of warmer waters and only occur in Irish waters when they stray off course. It is likely that they may have originated from Florida, America. Two specimens have been taken to Coastal and Marine Resources Centre (stored at the National Maritime College), University College Cork, where a necropsy (post mortem for animals) will be conducted to establish their age, sex and their exact origin. During this same period, two loggerhead turtles were found in Scotland, and a rare Kemp’s Ridley turtle was found in Wales, thus making it an exceptional month for stranded turtles in Ireland and the UK.

Loggerhead turtles are not normally found in Irish waters, because water temperatures here are far too cold for their survival. Instead, adult loggerheads prefer the warmers waters of the Mediterranean, the Caribbean and North America’s east coast. The four turtles that were found have probably originated from the North American population of loggerheads. However it will require genetic analysis to confirm this assumption. It is thought that after leaving their nesting beach as hatchlings (when they measure 4.5 cm in length), these tiny turtles enter the North Atlantic Gyre (a giant circular ocean current) that takes them from America, across to Europe (Azores area), down towards North Africa, before being transported back again to America via a different current. This remarkable round trip may take many years during which these tiny turtles grow by several centimetres a year. Loggerheads may circulate around the North Atlantic several times before they settle in the coastal waters of Florida or the Caribbean.

These four turtles were probably on their way around the Atlantic when they strayed a bit too far north from the Gulf Stream. Once they did, their fate was sealed, as the cooler waters of the North East Atlantic are too cold for loggerheads (unlike leatherback turtles which have many anatomical and physiological adaptations to enable them to swim in our seas). Once in cool waters, the body of a loggerhead begins to shut down as they get ‘cold stunned’, then get hypothermia and die. However, sometimes they can wash up alive! Therefore, if found, NEVER put a loggerhead turtle back into the sea as this will surely kill it! Instead, place the turtle in a dry, sheltered place until animal welfare experts can collect them for rehabilitation. Contact any of the aquariums (e.g. Dingle Oceanworld Aquarium and Lahinch Seaworld) or Dr Tom Doyle of the Coastal and Marine Resources Centre (UCC, see contact details below). With a stranding as recent as last week, it is likely that that some more may wash up, so keep your eyes peeled for loggerhead sea turtles.

Turtle findings published in Endangered Species Research

We are glad to announce that our efforts to satellite tag turtles off Ireland has paid off, with some important findings now published in the scientific journal Endangered Species Research.

These first tracking results for leatherbacks in Europe support to the suggestion that the Bay of Biscay region within the Northeast Atlantic is a high-use area where some leatherbacks may spend several months presumably feeding on abundant jellyfish.

We have also documented the movements of two turtles for up to a year, showing that both use the west coast of Africa when heading south, and that male turtles seen swimming in Irish/UK waters can return to their breeding grounds in French Guiana/Surinam in time for breeding.

Establishing such knowledge is important, especially for endangered species where knowledge of their range and movements may be critical in helping to define important areas where conservation measures need to be implemented.

JELLYFISH THRIVING IN OUR COASTAL SEAS

Please click on the below link and learn how jellyfish, once considered unimportant, are now known to play a large role in the dynamics and healthy functioning of our coastal seas! This article was published in Inshore Island Magazine.

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~ by Digory Kirke on August 6, 2008.

2 Responses to “Loggerhead Turtles wash up on Irish coasts”

  1. I found your site on technorati and read a few of your other posts. Keep up the good work. I just added your RSS feed to my Google News Reader. Looking forward to reading more from you down the road!

  2. Hey Alex,

    Thanks for stopping by. I appreciate you doing so. I have a real passion for turtles and am glad you enjoyed what you’ve seen and read here. I have been doing a lot of coverage on the Olympics and haven’t done much about turtles lately. I will however get back to doing so in the very near future.

    This is a very new blog that is just getting up and going. I try very hard to bring diversity to it. But fear not, as I said I will be doing more turtle blogs in the near future as well as many many other subjects. Keep a watch on this blog and checking back on it and your comments are always welcome here.

    Excelsior!

    Turtle (Texas Turtle)

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