Yes they do.
The past week has been pretty stormy, yet we are starting to encounter more turtles each night than we have seen so far this season! During the past week we have surpassed 1,000 nests (including both leatherback and loggerhead turtles). Even with the nasty weather, the nighttime tagging team has encountered 21 nesting leatherbacks since our last blog post. On Sunday night (May 13) there were seven nests!
Some of the mamas we’ve seen in the past week have been repeat nesters for us but we are still encountering some new ladies. Aussie nested in Juno Beach on May 14, making that the fourth time we’ve encountered her (our first four-peat this season!). She’s the mama with what appears to be a shark bite out of her right front flipper. Her previous nest was on April 25 so she likely somewhere else between those nests. Leatherback turtles nest between 6-8 times per season and those nests are typically 8-10 days apart. Leatherbacks tend to be less faithful to specific nesting sites than loggerhead or green turtles so it is very cool that we’ve seen her four times this season!
Dr. Justin Perrault collecting samples from Aussie while she she lays her eggs. Photo credit: Kate Fraser.
We also encountered Adele for the third time last night. Her previous nest was on May 6 so she’s right on schedule!
In addition to these repeat females, we’ve had some new ladies on the beach. Onyx, Allyson, Benatar, Scarpetta, Lenny, and Anouk are all new females that we’ve never encountered on our beach. Allyson, Lenny, and Anouk were all neophytes, meaning that they’ve never been tagged and could be new nesters. Of these three, Anouk was the smallest, measuring 142.6 cm in curved carapace length (approximately 4 ft, 8 in). Lenny was the largest, at 151.7 cm in curved carapace length (approximately 5 ft long).
Lenny while she was nesting. Photo credit: Kate Fraser.
Top: Anouk in her body pit while she deposited eggs into her egg chamber. Photo credit: Christina Coppenrath. Bottom: Anouk as she made her way back to the water. Photo credit: Kate Fraser.
We’ve also had some older remigrants! Kaitlyn, who nested on May 14. She was originally tagged in 2005 and was last encountered in Juno Beach in 2011. Her curved carapace length was 153.8 cm. Morgan was another remigrant who was originally tagged in 2009. One of the most exciting remigrants this year was Ursa, the sixth female ever tagged as a part of our nighttime tagging project. She was originally tagged in 2001 and was last encountered in 2010. She was even a part of a previous satellite tagging study! Ursa was a big mama, measuring 161.4 cm in curved carapace length.
Ursa while she laid her clutch of eggs. Photo credit: Christina Coppenrath
Be sure to check back for more season updates!
Disclaimer: All marine turtle images taken in Florida were obtained with the approval of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) under conditions not harmful to this or other turtles. Images were acquired while conducting authorized research activities pursuant to FWC MTP-18-205.