March 20th marks the first day of spring, but sometimes the weather can make it a little difficult to identify the true beginning of the season. Luckily there are some other signals that the warmer months are coming up. Marine animals of all kinds, from seabirds to giant whales, can be great identification tools for spring. To celebrate this change, we are telling the stories of some amazing marine animals who are known for signaling this season. If you weren’t already excited for some warmer weather, here are a few of the incredible behaviors exhibited by marine animals during this time of year to get you in the spring spirit.
Olive Ridley sea turtle. Photo by: Matthew Dolkas.
I got a kick out of Groundhog Day, the comedy starring Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell that was released in 1993. With Murray waking each day to relive Groundhog Day alongside Punxsutawney Phil and his co-anchor, the movie was lighthearted and fun. But the science of ocean plastic pollution is starting to feel a lot like Groundhog Day. And the storyline is becoming much more troubling with each new publication.
This week a new study in the peer-reviewed journal Global Change Biology calculates that over half of the world’s sea turtles have ingested plastic; this follows on the heels of a publication last month by some of the same scientists that predicted that nearly all of the world’s seabirds would be contaminated with plastics by 2050 unless action is taken soon. With each new publication, the case for a global strategy to stem the tide of plastics into the world’s oceans becomes ever more vital.
The leatherback sea turtle has spent over 100 million years living beneath the ocean’s waves. It is the longest surviving and one of the largest reptiles on earth. With a heritage that goes back to the dinosaur era, the leatherback sea turtle’s impressive list of accomplishments is virtually unmatched.
Leatherback sea turtles:
Weigh in between 500 and 2,000 pounds
Can reach lengths from 4 to 8 feet long
Live up to 100 years
Dive to extreme depths, often deeper than 4,000 feet
Swim great distances, such as traveling over 7,000 miles
While on vacation, I came across a crab entangled in a fishing net at a local, beachside restaurant. My time working with crustaceans in science laboratories and in the field gave me the necessary familiarity with their movements and behaviors to handle the animal without hurting it or myself. Armed with this knowledge, I quickly and carefully untangled the piece of fishing net that had wound up tightly on the crab and placed him gently back on the local beach.
Without the proper qualifications, attempting to help a hurt animal in the wild could result in further injury. So what should you do if you encounter an entangled animal at the beach? Continue reading »
In honor of the special day, I thought it might be fitting to celebrate one of our world’s oldest creatures. If you’ve ever had the fortune of seeing a sea turtle in its natural habitat, then you will understand why it is important that we stick our necks out to protect them.
It was not until after I got the chance to volunteer in a sea turtle rescue and rehabilitation center in Topsail, North Carolina that the severity of the risks facing them became a reality for me.
The hospital is run completely on a volunteer basis, and at the time was nursing 26 sea turtles that had been victims of hypothermia, pneumonia, bycatch, shark attacks, or boating incidents. Continue reading »