Monitoring the dinosaur of the sea

Monitoring the dinosaur of the sea

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Turtles have been roaming the planet since the time of the dinosaurs and in South East Queensland we are very lucky to have six of the world turtle species right here in Moreton Bay.

Our understanding of this ancient creature and threats to their population has expanded rapidly over the past few decades, with monitoring and tagging programs giving us an insight into the lifespan of a turtle.

In June this year the the Traditional Owners of Stradbroke Island, the Quandamooka people and the Straddie community welcomed world renowned turtle expert, Dr Col Limpus, who over a series of two days trained the local community in catching, tagging and recording the health of turtles.

Turtles are of great cultural significance for the Quandamooka people and Dr Col hopes that these types of training programs mean that local communities have the capacity to continue with monitoring the health of turtles and contribute to the collection of essential long term data, and our continued understanding of this marvellous creature.

Turtle populations have fluctuated significantly over the past few decades, as a result of trawl fishing (with turtles getting caught in the nets), boat strikes and more recently injection of plastic waste with turtle’s mistake for food.

We were joined on the day by Dr Col ImpusQuandamooka getting ready to catch some turtles!The number of barnacles on a turtle's shell is an indicator of its healthThe weight of each turtle was recordedA Green TurtleAt the end of the day the turtles were released back into the Bay

Some cool facts you may not have known about turtles!

1. Turtles don't start to breed until they reach about 30 years of age

2. They use Earth's magnetic field to make a mental map of their migration

3. When they are first born, the hatchlings begin what is called a “swimming frenzy” which may last for several days, swimming far out to sea to clear the predator-rich shore

4. Turtles eggs incubated at higher temperature produce females and colder temperatures produce males.

5. Female turtles are able to store the sperm when mating and use it to fertilise their eggs at a later date – the result is that they lay their clutches of eggs all from different fathers!

6. Turtles need to be in water to be able to swallow their food

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