Thursday, October 18, 2018

Researchers use ultrasound to learn more about Ningaloo's pregnant green sea turtles

turtle swimming

Scientists at the CSIRO have taken an innovative approach to learn more about the breeding and nesting habits of Ningaloo Reef's green sea turtles along the remote WA coast.

Using ultrasound, researchers are able to find out if turtles will lay eggs this nesting season.

Senior researcher Mat Vanderklift said it was a different approach to how they traditionally tracked pregnant turtles.

"Typically, when we study females we wait until they crawl up onto the beach to lay their eggs and then we pop a tag on them and follow them back to where their home is," Dr Vanderklift said.

"We can find out a lot about turtles that way, but what we don't know for a place like Ningaloo is where the turtles that live there go and breed."

Understanding where the turtles travel could give researchers the information they need to protect the species from wider threats, such as climate change.

"If we know where their main food resources are and where they're going to and coming from in terms of nesting and feeding then we can start to look at whether their habitat is being affected as well," Dr Vanderklift said.

The team were looking for turtles carrying egg follicles, which resembled golf balls on the ultrasound screen.

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