Some sneaky sea turtles lay decoy nests to trick predators

If there’s one positive to come out of this pandemic, it’s definitely a resurgence of sea turtles thriving on empty beaches. We’ve been covering stories around the world of successful hatchings. Now, it appears these hardworking sea turtles are even smarter than we thought.

From observing sea turtles, researchers from the University of Glasgow have discovered that the mothers actually create fake diversion nests to prevent predators such as mongooses, dogs, and wild pigs from sniffing out their real eggs.

After turtles lay their eggs, and before they head back to the sea, they scuttle around the beach and create decoy nests away from their actual nesting site. Previous theories had thought the behavior was to disguise nests or create a path for hatchlings to find the water, but from observing leatherbacks and hawksbill sea turtles in Trinidad and Tobago for many years, the researchers are confident the behavior is a strategic distraction technique.

The two types of turtles shared a common ancestor over 100 million years ago, so researchers think the behavior could date back to a time when dinosaurs were potential predators.

Not all sea turtles partake in this behavior. The olive ridley turtle tends to head straight back to the sea once it lays its eggs, but given that larger turtle’s risk exposing themselves to predators and the hot sun to engage in this behavior, it must be critical to their survival.

Sea turtle hatching events are beautiful and captivating. Now, we know that even more hard work and planning goes into their successful and delicate breeding behaviors than we previously thought.

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