Today’s Solutions: January 25, 2022

When female sea turtles come ashore to lay their eggs, they return to the very spot where they once hatched and scuttled towards the sea. Traveling thousands of miles before coming back to their roots demonstrates their complex navigational abilities. New research shows these turtles are even more determined and resilient than we previously thought, sometimes getting lost for miles before finding their way home. 

Researchers have long thought these turtles use Earth’s geomagnetic field to find their way, but a team has used satellite tracking to study the specific movements of female green turtles. They affixed satellite trackers to 35 sea turtles nesting on the island of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean and discovered the true extent of challenges these turtles overcome to find their way home.

What the researchers found was that the turtles’ routes were cruder than they believed. The organisms often make mistakes, get lost, and overshoot their travel goals. Despite these roadblocks, the turtles managed to fight their way back to not only nesting grounds but also their favorite foraging grounds. 

In all, some of the turtles traveled as far as 4,000 kilometers to the east African coast, from Mozambique in the south, to as far north as Somalia. One turtle traveled off course by 200 kilometers before spending 2 months finding her way back.

These wide-ranging migration zones make protecting these endangered species more difficult. Although the Diego Garcia region is a protected marine sanctuary, the turtles only spent about 10 percent of their lives within its boundaries. Understanding more about the migration patterns and navigation habits of these dedicated turtles will help us more effectively protect the species. 

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