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Earth Science

The Gulf's Great Turtle Relocation Project 104

Posted by timothy
from the moving-quickly dept.
An anonymous reader writes "All along the Gulf Coast's beaches it's turtle-hatching season. Conservationists knew the poor hatchlings wouldn't have a chance if they swam out into the oily waters of the Gulf, so they came up with an incredibly ambitious plan: they would dig up 70,000 turtle eggs, carefully raise them in a climate-controlled hanger at the Kennedy Space Center, and release the hatchlings into the clean Atlantic waters off Florida's east coast. Now that project is well underway, and Discover Magazine has pictures of the first batch of hatchlings crawling toward the welcoming waves. But there's a chance all this do-gooding won't do any good. New Scientist found experts who argue that releasing them into the Atlantic rather than into the Gulf will screw up the turtles' navigation systems, which will prevent them from following their normal migratory routes."
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The Gulf's Great Turtle Relocation Project

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 16, 2010 @05:54PM (#32933328)

    carefully raise them in a climate-controlled hanger at the Kennedy Space Center

    That's hangar [reference.com], not hanger [reference.com]. Like with separate, it's annoying how few people manage to get it right...

    • by Flyerman (1728812)

      I would say this is a bad comparison. Unless you have a very specific set of hangar-based forums, you'd rarely see people use "hangar" anywhere near as much as "separate".

      Maybe a car analogy? People who have to swerve across 2 lanes of traffic to reach the jughandle/exit? Might be less effective in Jersey...

  • Which beach? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by The Grim Reefer2 (1195989) on Friday July 16, 2010 @05:54PM (#32933330)

    So will the return to the beach they were released from? Or back to the ones in the gulf? I suspect this will make for some very interesting research in the future.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 16, 2010 @05:57PM (#32933362)

      They will dutifully crawl out of the ocean and back into the KSC hangar in which they were raised. We'll subsequently hear about some rocket failing to achieve orbit when a clutch of turtle eggs mysteriously causes some malfunction.

    • Re:What Food? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by FriendlyLurker (50431)
      I have to wonder - if all the baby turtles natural predators are already dead, and we go release ~70'000 healthy hand nurtured healthy turtles in an ecosystem whose balance has been totally screwed up, perhaps for many decades to come... whether we are just going to be heaping more shit on top of what we have already dumped on the system. The ecosystem does not care that turtles have big teary looking eyes - those little beak's still have to eat something...
      • by Gavin Scott (15916) on Friday July 16, 2010 @07:04PM (#32933886)

        Indeed, and when those poor turtles have been exposed to all the toxic mutagens in the oil and the weird chemical dispersants that have been employed, we could all be in serious trouble once they become teenagers...

        G.

      • by GaryOlson (737642)
        I hear people taste good basted in cocoa butter, aloe, or other flavors of SPF. The oceans around Florida are full of enticing human sized morsels.
      • by Smauler (915644)

        Just about all turtles are endangered - there are a hell of a lot less of them now than there were a few hundred years ago. We've already fucked up the ecosystem by killing most of the turtles.... What most turtles eat (jellyfish) don't seem to be endangered at all - the lack of turtles and other predators seems to be increasing jellyfish numbers. Too many turtles is not going to wreck the ocean biosphere any time soon.

      • by iamhassi (659463)
        "...and we go release ~70'000 healthy hand nurtured healthy turtles..."

        I wondered the same thing, so I went to TFA to look for photos of 70,000 turtles since I figured that'd be pretty cool to see. Most turtles I saw was a dozen, no photos of large hangars full of turtles or hundreds of containers full of eggs or anything, so I'm wondering where the other 69,988 turtles are, or if "70,000" was just the number of turtle eggs usually laid each year and they used that number but have no intention of actual
  • by meerling (1487879) on Friday July 16, 2010 @05:56PM (#32933342)
    Maybe they'll end up establishing new populations in different locations.
    It's certainly better to give them the chance rather than simply let them be exterminated.

    I know, it's a complex situation with many variables that can't even be fully defined, much less accounted for. That's true, but we can only try to mitigate this disaster as best we can, or sit back and complain about those who are trying to fix it. Your choice.
    • by Huntr (951770) on Friday July 16, 2010 @06:02PM (#32933440)
      Sometimes doing SOMETHING is worse than not doing anything. Don't be pissed at ecologists who have legit concerns about the turtles. Save that for BP and the gov't response.
      • by Anonymous Coward

        Don't be pissed at ecologists...

        (Assumed GP was male) I don't think he was; his reply was very moderate in fact.

        That said, how could leaving the turtles to be wiped out be better than rescuing them and giving them a chance at an unpredictable future? I suppose if they go on to wipe out 2 species because of the change in habitat or something.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Asic Eng (193332)
        Sometimes doing something can be worse than not doing anything - that can be true sometimes, but nobody has suggested it's the case here. However the question has been asked "Why not place them into an area that is thought to be part of their normal migratory route?" Which is an interesting point.

        Of course it's not like the US Fish and Wildlife Service hasn't considered that. [...] releasing the turtles on sand allows scientists to assess how they are coping with the move. The process also mimics turtles'

      • by rwa2 (4391) *

        Meh, it's not like they're moving all the turtles. They're just spreading them around a bit. Most baby turtles get eaten anyway (survival rate from hatching is something like 1/100?), so at worst they're expanding the culinary variety of wildlife out on the panhandle. So we're really talking about ~700 turtles that might reach adulthood, which isn't really all that terribly many in the scheme of things.

        Yeah, doing nothing means no one can hold you accountable for anything. There people who are perfectly

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by rollingcalf (605357)

          Their survival rate is likely to be much higher than usual, because the eggs that are relocated in this project won't be dug up and eaten by animals, and the hatchlings also won't be killed by predators when making their way to the sea.

      • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

        by jafiwam (310805)

        No. Complaining about a solution that may not work over one that definitely won't because the one that is a "maybe" is unknown is stupid egghead bullshit.

        There's a reason you fucking nerds never get laid. Sometimes you just gotta cut your losses and deal with the fat chick.

        The criticism of "what will it do to migratory patterns" is hopelessly detail oriented in a big picture that should be very obvious.

        Out of 70k turtle babies, only a handful of them will survive in non-oil soaked condition in the fi

    • by copponex (13876) on Friday July 16, 2010 @06:03PM (#32933450) Homepage

      That's true, but we can only try to mitigate this disaster as best we can, or sit back and complain about those who are trying to fix it. Your choice.

      This is slashdot. Brace yourself.

    • by Chris Burke (6130) on Friday July 16, 2010 @06:19PM (#32933578) Homepage

      Maybe they'll end up establishing new populations in different locations.
      It's certainly better to give them the chance rather than simply let them be exterminated.

      I think it's important to note that while 70,000 eggs seems like a lot, it comes from only 800 nests in two states. Turtles lay a lot of eggs, because most of them are not going to survive in any case.

      The point here is that they're hardly moving all the turtle hatchlings to the east coast, so if moving them is futile or even detrimental compared to leaving them in the Gulf, that'll be apparent in the outcome of the sea turtles that will hatch in the sands of the Gulf coast. On the other hand, if they have even a chance to survive in the Atlantic while the Gulf ends up being certain death for the turtles left there, then that's a huge win. The species occurs naturally on the Atlantic coast, so it's not like we're introducing a new species with potentially detrimental consequences.

      There's very little downside here, and the potential for a huge upside. The experts may be right that it is futile, but it is absolutely worth trying and I commend these folks for it.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by whoda (569082)

      Putting non-native species into alternate natural environments has never led to any problems...

  • Sad (Score:4, Funny)

    by ceraphis (1611217) on Friday July 16, 2010 @06:00PM (#32933394)
    This is really sad, I always liked turtles. And frogs.

    We may soon see a rash of BP stations being razed with the only clue being some discarded pizza boxes.
  • by garyisabusyguy (732330) on Friday July 16, 2010 @06:00PM (#32933406)

    That the 'experts' are worrying about, but really... what are the other options?

    What are the potential outcomes of letting the hatchlings make their way into the polluted water?
        Turtles die of exposure to oil
        Turtles survive because all the predators have already died from the oil
        Most turtles die, except for a few that have a natural ability to survive on oil
        Surviving turtles attack remaining oil reservoirs and consume them

    Seriously, I think that the people who have committed themselves to preventing a straight up die off of an entire generation of gulf-coast turtles should be commended as heros.

    fwiw, I hope that the 70K extra turtle on the Atlantic coast overwhelm the natural predators and allow more hatchlings to reach adulthood. Is there a chance that the introduced population could displace the natives? Possibly.

    What have been the results of other navigating species (salmon, birds, monarch butterflies...) who are relocated?

    • What are the potential outcomes of letting the hatchlings make their way into the polluted water?

      Turtles die of exposure to oil

      Turtles survive because all the predators have already died from the oil

      Most turtles die, except for a few that have a natural ability to survive on oil

      Surviving turtles attack remaining oil reservoirs and consume them

      Note, for reference, that on average, 1 sea turtle in 1000 lives to adulthood. So we'd normally expect 70 of them to survive.

      I expect that we'll

      • by DougWebb (178910)
        Maybe all of the (surviving) predators that normally kill most of the baby turtles will still be looking for them in the Gulf, and next year there is going to be a turtle plague in Eastern Florida.
      • Perhaps they could sample the genetics of hatchlings and see if there are descendants of gulf turtles emerging from atlantic beaches in the next several years?

        Hell, if people are willing to move 70k eaggs, then why wouldn't they be willing to swab a few thousands turtles, "for the sake of science"

      • by daveime (1253762)

        Most turtles die, except for a few that have a natural ability to survive on oil

        And then BP can train them up to plug the holes in all their other leaking wells.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by drinkypoo (153816)

        I expect that we'll never be able to tell whether this has done any good at all...

        Actually, if any turtle populations are established on the east coast, we'll know if it's done any good at all. Especially if populations decline in the gulf, which they are almost guaranteed to do.

        • I expect that we'll never be able to tell whether this has done any good at all...

          Actually, if any turtle populations are established on the east coast, we'll know if it's done any good at all. Especially if populations decline in the gulf, which they are almost guaranteed to do.

          Since there are already turtle populations on the east coast, we won't notice the addition of about 70 adult turtles in a few years.

          And even the Kemp Ridley sea turtles can be found in the Atlantic from time to time, so finding a f

    • by Locke2005 (849178)
      Birds and butterflies can actually adjust their migration patterns if you offset their starting points. Don't ask me how they do it, I don't think anybody has figured that out yet.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by camperdave (969942)
        "Hey, where're ya goin'?"
        "Winter feeding grounds... I think"
        "You're going the wrong way"
        "Damn humans. Mind if I follow you?"
        "Be my guest."
    • by thegarbz (1787294) on Friday July 16, 2010 @06:38PM (#32933712)
      You missed one outcome:
      - Turtles grow to their teenage years, mutate and then move into the city sewers placing a strain on pizza joints who are unable to figure out where to deliver the pizza.
    • by fermion (181285)
      Another advantage of the east coast is that Louisiana is evidently not enforcing turtle exclusion devices for the fishing boats. Even most of the gulf coast seems to be more concerned with maximizing fish productivity at any cost. It may that the some turtles might survive the oil. It could be that some turtles might not be caught in fishing nets. It may not be that they survive both. Therefore moving east is a good thing.
    • by mqduck (232646)

      That the 'experts' are worrying about

      What's with the scare quotes? Are you implying that you're the *real* expert here?

  • always nay-sayers (Score:5, Insightful)

    by phantomfive (622387) on Friday July 16, 2010 @06:01PM (#32933428) Journal
    You are always going to have people complain, even if you came up with a 100% clean, 100% efficient new energy source there would be some people who complain the miss the taste of pollution or something. Will the turtles die?

    His view is backed up by evidence that suggests turtles are programmed from birth to follow a specific migratory path once in water. Indeed, turtles from different nesting sites seem to inherit different sets of navigational instructions.

    Basically, in the past they have exposed turtles (in tanks?) to magnetic fields and found that they follow the magnetic fields as if they were navigating through the ocean. It kind of surprises me that no one has ever taken a turtle from Texas and put it in the ocean in Florida just to see what would happen. Here is their chance: hope they pay attention to what the turtles do.

    • It kind of surprises me that no one has ever taken a turtle from Texas and put it in the ocean in Florida just to see what would happen.

      Well, that's my vacation plans settled.

      Airline Check-in in Texas: "Two for Florida? Um, where's the other passenger?"

      Me: "It's this here turtle."

      On the airplane . . .

      Me: "Stewardess, another Martini for me and another squid for the turtle."

      Stewardess: "I think you've had enough, sir."

      Me: "Don't worry, the turtle is driving."

      • It kind of surprises me that no one has ever taken a turtle from Texas and put it in the ocean in Florida just to see what would happen.

        Well, that's my vacation plans settled.

        Airline Check-in in Texas: "Two for Florida? Um, where's the other passenger?"

        Me: "It's this here turtle."

        On the airplane . . .

        Me: "Stewardess, another Martini for me and another squid for the turtle."

        Stewardess: "I think you've had enough, sir."

        Me: "Don't worry, the turtle is driving."

        Just don't fly AirTran. [msn.com]

  • by cats-paw (34890) on Friday July 16, 2010 @06:02PM (#32933444) Homepage

    release 1/2 from the sand
    release 1/2 out to sea

    Then we'll know, right ?

  • So the west coast of Florida is having vacations cancelled because of the oil and now with the release of 50-60,000 confused turtles attracting sharks in a feeding frenzy now the east coast of Florida will suffer as the vacation are cancelled there also.
  • . . . but not by much.

    It's a chance, though as one of the experts in TFA said, "Why not place them into an area that is thought to be part of their normal migratory route?"

    I thought that there are loggerheads on the Atlantic/eastern seaboard beaches? Are the gulf turtles so different that they could not survive the change?

  • Just build a sewer elsewhere and order in some pizza, the turtles will soon move.

  • by dangle (1381879) on Friday July 16, 2010 @06:17PM (#32933562)

    Nowhere have I seen any information about tagging the turtles to monitor their progress. It might be impossible given their small size at birth in comparison to their adult size, and the fact that this population takes about 18 years to reach sexual maturity. The LAT has a few more details: http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-oil-spill-turtles-20100715,0,2244379.story [latimes.com]

  • by Anonymous Coward

    then placed over a flame and lightly seasoned. Mmmm turtle soup.

  • Duh? (Score:4, Informative)

    by b4upoo (166390) on Friday July 16, 2010 @07:03PM (#32933878)

    The same species that nest in the Gulf also nest on the East Coast of Florida which is oil free. The real issue is whether the built in homing instinct for nesting will be to the original nest or to the transplant nest from which they emerge. I have no knowledge of whether the issue has ever been studied. Either way it is still a big problem as the East Coast breeding grounds may not support additional nests as over population and erosion take their toll on natural conditions.

  • No one else seems to have said it, so I guess it's up to me.

    The Turtle Moves!

  • How far? (Score:1, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Do they just need to rescue the turtles on the surface, or is it turles all the way down?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 16, 2010 @08:08PM (#32934232)

    RIGHT 90
    RIGHT 90
    FORWARD 100

  • slim and none. Take your pick.
  • Anyone else feeling a TMNT / Captain Planet crossover right about now?

  • All this reminds me of those old Larry Niven stories, where some time-traveling nave in the future goes back in time to get whatever animal is requested by the dim-witted ruler. Extinct, mythical, doesn't matter, in the future, they are all things that don't exist, and all the same.

    Turtles? Never seen one. Exist, doesn't exist... all the same to me.

    If they can't survive, they should have evolved better. Oil is a natural product. Do you want them to survive lava flows too?

    Something else will succeed
    • by Vegeta99 (219501)

      You've never seen a turtle?!? Where do you live??

      I guess I'm on the opposite end of the scale from you, I've CRASHED A CAR because of a fucking snapping turtle!

      • OK, I have seen a turtle.

        In the zoo. On TV/Movies. Maybe once, long ago, running over them on a turnpike somewhere, back east.

        No. Turtles do not come up in everyday life in the arid southwest. I see mostly people, way too many people. Then ants, birds (the hawks are cool), and the occasional coyote. Oh, and once in a while a rattlesnake - oh and lots of rabbits, and rats, which I don't really think of as useful to me in any way.

        But no. No turtles in any way more meaningful to me than Saber tooth Ti
    • Yes, oil is natural; it's naturally underground. Perhaps you also subscribe to Rush Limbaugh's theory [rushlimbaugh.com] that since it's natural, it'll go away without us doing anything.
    • by jprupp (697660)

      The turtles have probably evolved very well. I mean, their cuteness makes us humans feel sorry for them and help them survive. Appealing to another species that can benefit their long term survival is a relative advantages. I'm sure not many people would care if a disgusting creature like the cockroach goes extinct, unless that would become a problem for a more liked creature.

      I think turtles are going to do just fine, if only because some of us help them out when they are having a hard time. It's fortunate

  • The Turtle Moves!
  • As far as I can tell, there are 6 main ways we are systematically destroying ecosystems. (Not including global warming!) Through what I call the 6 p’s of ecosystem destruction [wordpress.com] we are systematically taking nature and paving it over, ploughing it up, polluting it, preying on predators, spreading pests, and over-populating the entire planet!

    So as well as the normal conservation programs, I'm guessing we are going to see more of these radical interventions to try and same some of the biodiversity on thi
  • by JasoninKS (1783390)
    Even if the turtle's navigation is goofed because of the relocation, at least the people from this project are trying something. I can certainly applaud that. Better to give these turtles a fighting chance than sending them to definite doom.
  • This way they have a chance, and I think most people underestimate the adaptability of animals, they may be fine navigation wise, but what will they come back to?

  • Upgrade their navigation systems.
  • Dear humans,

    Please stop screwing with survival of the fittest. It doesn't work. Ever.

    Sincerely, kingdom Animalia.
  • Surely I am not the only one to have not immediately thought of the Gulf of Mexico?

    My first thought was of the Persian Gulf, and a Google search for "The Gulf" brings that up first too.

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