Most people know the basic life cycle of the world’s seven species of sea turtles and you may even be familiar with the biological mystery of where juvenile sea turtles went from the time they hatched to sub-adulthood known as “the lost years”. Now, thanks to research from the mid 1980’s, we know these little cuties hatch from our beaches and head out to the Sargasso Sea where they ride around on mats of sargassum algae, eating small fish and invertebrates they find within their floating microcosm. Unfortunately, these sargassum mats attract pollution in addition to young animals. Pieces of plastic and Styrofoam, monofilament fishing line, and oil can all be readily found amongst the algae.
A Terrapin Excluder Device (TED) developed by the Wetlands Institute in Stone Harbor, NJ. These required additions dramatically reduce the number of Diamondback Terrapins accidentally caught in crab traps. [Photo courtesy of the Wetlands Institute.]
Whether it’s Sea Turtles 50 miles offshore, Diamondback Terrapins along salt marshes, or Box Turtles in your own backyard, these long-lived and dare I say, adorable, reptiles can be observed all over the place. Our actions can have unintended consequences that ripple throughout an ecosystem. So do our shelled-friends a favor and slow down on roads, don’t release balloons, and help them out of a dangerous situation from time to time. The turtles and your fellow turtle-lovers thank you!