Found: The ‘lost years’ of sea turtles.

Isabel Lamb reveals sea turtles' secret migration zone.

Isabel Lamb
16th May 2021
The period of time between a sea turtle’s birth and it’s first movement into the ocean, and that spent as a ‘teenager’ in coastal waters has until recently been shrouded in mystery. It was thought sea turtles drifted in the ocean currents, obediently carried along as they matured, but a study by the University of Central Florida has revealed some turtles purposefully head for a particular area of ocean.

Researchers tracked the movement of 21 green turtles, who are born near the Atlantic coastline of Florida and released into the Gulf Stream, for around 5 months. 14 of the 21 were observed to leave the Gulf Stream and make their way into the Sargasso Sea.

The Sargasso Sea is found in the North Atlantic Ocean and is known for tranquil, deep blue waters and the floating seaweed masses after which it is named. In part, the Sargasso Sea includes the Bermuda Triangle, an area of ocean famous for the mysterious disappearance of many ships and planes.

Green turtles are not the only ones who actively access oceanic nurseries. Loggerhead turtles, who originate from the same Florida beaches as green turtles, have also been observed in the Sargasso Sea. The presence of Sargassum seaweed is known to be an important feature of the habitat of young turtles for food and protection. Therefore its abundance in the Sargasso Sea may create the ideal conditions for an oceanic nursery.

An awareness of where juvenile sea turtles grow up is important when thinking about sea turtle conservation. Not only does such data provide clear, undisputable evidence as to the importance of the Sargasso Sea as a habitat for green sea turtles, the data collected can be put to use in calculating future threats, such as commercial use, and the impact such threats may have on the lives of sea turtles allowing preventative methods to be put in place.

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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