TURTLE BAY, Calif.
— Turtles are dying off at some of the world’s most iconic resorts after being pushed to the brink by sharks, a study shows.
In a series of experiments conducted at more than 30 sites across the world, researchers found that when turtles are introduced to the water, they die at a rate of one-fifth the expected rate.
In some cases, they were found to have been killed within two hours of being introduced.
“We’re really starting to see a trend of turtles getting pushed into the ocean,” said Mark Rehwinkel, who heads the turtle conservation program at the Center for Biological Diversity in San Diego, California.
“This is really a new phenomenon, but we haven’t seen it before.
The idea of having an ocean environment where we can see how the ecosystem is functioning and how people are doing is really important.”
In many cases, researchers discovered that when turtle carcasses were placed in shallow pools filled with saltwater, the turtles did not survive.
“If they get in the water they’re going to die,” Rehwalkel said.
“They’re going not to make it to the shore, and it’s going to take a lot longer to recover them.
There’s no reason to expect them to survive on the beach.”
He said the data also shows that the animals are being driven to the edge of their range.
The research was published online in the journal Science Advances.
Researchers looked at the number of turtles that were found on the beaches of Costa Rica, Japan, Mexico, South Africa, Japan and Brazil, along with beaches in the United States and around the world.
The turtles were also given a series to test their survival rates and the species was placed in a small pool filled with freshwater.
“At the beginning of the experiment, we didn’t know how much of the pool was going to be turtles, but once we started moving the turtles in the pool, the numbers were quite remarkable,” Rehewinkel said, adding that turtles that had been removed from the pool were still surviving on average by about two-thirds the rate of other turtles.
“The turtles are doing OK, but they’re just getting pushed to a place where they can’t go,” Rehawn said.
“What we’re seeing is that they’re getting pushed off the shore and onto the reefs, where they’re really struggling.”
Researchers said that if we do not change our approach to these marine ecosystems, the species may not be able to adapt to the changes.
“I think that’s the issue, is that turtles are being pushed out of these environments,” said Dr. Andrew Pang, a marine biologist at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia, who was not involved in the study.
“If we don’t address this issue in these environments, turtles are not going to survive in these settings.”
Pang said it is not yet known what changes to the environment can be made to increase the turtles’ survivability.
The study was funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation and the Marine Mammal Institute at the Smithsonian Institution.
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