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Leatherbacks nesting during the day?

Peak leatherback season has come and gone. That being said, we are still seeing leatherback ladies in Juno Beach (loggerheads are also here in full force!). Since our last post, we have encountered 11 leatherbacks on our beaches. Some of these mamas are repeat nesters but some are new!

Of the ladies we have already seen this season, we have once again encountered Kaitlyn, Prissy, May, Nova, Christine, Charlotte, and Pali. These were actually the third encounters for Prissy and Christine. Remember, Prissy is the turtle that is currently outfitted with a satellite tag (attached this year by researchers in Martin County. These researchers let us know that our last encounter with her was actually her eighth nest this season, and since leatherbacks typically nest six to eight times per season, this may be the last time we’ll see her this year.

Kaitlyn while she laid her clutch of eggs in Juno Beach. Photo credit: Christina Coppenrath.
Pali while she laid her eggs in Jupiter. Photo credit: Kim Rigano.

 

In addition to these repeat mamas, we are also STILL seeing new leatherbacks. Canary, Lynne, Lima, and Varta were new mamas that we’ve seen recently. Lima is a remigrant that we last saw in 2014. Varta was tagged this year by researchers in Martin County. Canary and Lynne were actually untagged females. Canary is now the smallest mama we’ve seen this season at 137.8 cm in maximum carapace length. Most of the new females that we see have previously been tagged by researchers in Martin County. Seeing untagged females this late in the season is SUPER interesting! Given that leatherbacks nest six to eight times per season, this begs the question: Where have these ladies been nesting this season?

Lima while she nested. Photo credit: Kate Fraser.

 

In addition to telling you about some of the mamas that we have been seeing this year, we also wanted to highlight a weird leatherback behavior we’ve seen this season. In Palm Beach County, we know about three leatherbacks that have nested during the day. Sometimes the mamas that come up during the wee hours of the morning do return to the ocean during daylight hours, but these ladies came up in the middle of the day! These daytime nesters were definitely a surprise to beachgoers. One of these leatherbacks was in Boca Raton in April. Another, Samantha, was on John D. MacArthur State Beach earlier this month. Not only did Samantha come up in the afternoon but, after she nested, she also dug a few additional egg chambers before returning to the water. Most recently, Lynne nested on Juno Beach during the afternoon. We are not sure why these ladies decided to come up and nest during the day but it is definitely a behavior that has raised eyebrows.

  Lynne while she was on Juno Beach during the day on May 23. Top: Lynne while she laid her clutch of eggs. Scratches, visible on the top of her head, were also present on her carapace. Photo credit: Kate Fraser. Middle: Lynne while she made her way back to the ocean. Photo credit: Dr. Justin Perrault. Bottom: Lynne almost back into the ocean. Photo credit: Kate Fraser.

 

Check out the links below for videos of Lynne making her way back to the ocean! (Video credits: Kate Fraser).

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Leatherback-Daytime-2

 

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.