Did you know that some leatherbacks make a lot noise while they are nesting? Not all leatherbacks are noisy nesters but we get pretty excited when we come across a noisy girl. Parker, a new mama on our beaches, was a very vocal lady! Some of the noises are just loud breaths, but some sound like burps! Be sure to check out LMC’s Instagram page to hear some of those sounds (@loggerheadmarinelifecenter)!
Parker taking a deep breath while nesting. Photo credit: Kate Fraser.
We thought we would be slowing down significantly but we have still been seeing leatherbacks almost every night on our beaches! We’ve had new turtles and remigrants, and both small and big mamas. Samantha, Kathmandu, Eunice, Mola, Kaitlyn, Wildfire, and Lenny are all mamas that we’ve seen this year. It’s exciting for us to see this big ladies more than once for our current research projects (and because we love seeing them). It was actually the second time we’ve seen Samantha, Kathmandu, Mola, and Lenny, the third time we’ve seen Kaitlyn and Eunice, and the fourth time we’ve seen Wildfire.
Of the leatherbacks we have seen in the past week, Mola and Samantha are the mamas we have the most history with, originally tagged in 2003. Kaitlyn is another lady we’ve known for a while; she was originally tagged in 2005. A few of the turtles we’ve seen more than once this year are new to us, like Kathmandu and Lenny. Hopefully we will continue to see them in future years. Seeing remigrant turtles that were tagged years ago is one of the most exciting parts of this tagging program! We document any injuries or unique physical characteristics each time we see them, which can give us an indication of how often they interact with boats, fishing gear, etc.
Kaitlyn while she deposited her eggs into her egg chamber. Her peduncle (shown below) appears to have been injured by some sort of impact, like a boat strike. Photo credits: Top – Christina Coppenrath, Bottom – Kate Fraser.
Kathmandu while she laid her eggs. Kathmandu, along with a few other turtles, nested below the large escarpments that have formed in Juno Beach. Because her eggs were considered doomed due to being inevitably washed over at high tides, the research team relocated her eggs to a location higher on the beach. Photo credit: Christina Coppenrath.
In addition to the ladies we know and love, we’ve still been seeing some leatherbacks on our beaches that we haven’t seen yet this season! Some of these turtles, like Lupe, Ellen, and Sterling are remigrants, meaning we’ve seen them in previous years. Lupe was actually first tagged here in 2006, Ellen in 2010, and Sterling in 2011. Others, like Parker and Holly are totally new to us.
Most of these mamas ranged between 150 and 165 cm in curved carapace length (approximately 5 – 5.5 feet long). Sterling and Holly, however, were small! Holly measured 140.2 cm in curved carapace length, but Sterling was the smallest mama we have seen this year at 135 cm in curved carapace length (just under 4 and a half feet long).
Holly while she deposited her eggs in to the egg chamber that took her 50 minutes to dig! Photo credit: Christina Coppenrath.
Little mama Sterling while she was laying her eggs. Photo credit: Kate Fraser.
Make sure to check back in for more leatherback research 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.