Turtles watch for, snack on gelatinous prey while swimming

Jun 12, 2013
This is a loggerhead turtle in the study equipped with a 3-D logger. Credit: Tomoko Narazaki (Atmosphere and Ocean Research Institute, The University of Tokyo)

Loggerhead turtles use visual cues to find gelatinous prey to snack on as they swim in open waters, according to research published June 12 in the open access journal PLOS ONE by Tomoko Narazaki and colleagues from the University of Tokyo, Japan.

Tracking underwater movements with 3D loggers and National Geographic Crittercams, the researchers found the turtles relied on sight, rather than sound or smell, to identify and move toward gelatinous, floating prey like jellyfish and other organisms; one turtle even swam toward a floating plastic bag. Turtles in this study foraged for such foods approximately twice every hour, suggesting they may rely on such gelatinous prey for energy more than previously thought.

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.
A loggerhead turtle encounters a plastic bag while swimming in open water. Credit: PLOS ONE 8(6): e66043. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0066043

Previous studies have shown that turtle diets vary with their age, habitat and other factors, but adult turtles depend on deep-sea hard-shelled animals like mollusks for food. The gelatinous prey studied here are low-energy, easily digestible foods that are unlikely to replace these other prey. However, the authors suggest that opportunistic foraging on such prey may benefit loggerhead turtles during oceanic migrations, when prey at the bottom of the sea is harder to reach.

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.
A loggerhead turtle foraged on a sea nettle, Chrysaora melanaster. Credit: PLOS ONE 8(6): e66043. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0066043

The study also offers insights into the foraging habits of these turtles, listed an endangered species by by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The authors add that the methods used here could be developed to map areas with higher foraging opportunities along oceanic for loggerhead turtles.

Explore further: Sea turtles benefiting from protected areas

More information: Narazaki T, Sato K, Abernathy KJ, Marshall GJ, Miyazaki N (2013) Loggerhead Turtles (Caretta caretta) Use Vision to Forage on Gelatinous Prey in Mid-Water. PLOS ONE 8(6): e66043. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0066043

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Study maps accidental killings of sea turtles

Apr 01, 2013

Sea turtles can get accidentally caught and killed in fishing operations, and new research out Monday seeks to map this phenomenon for the first time in a bid to save the endangered creatures.

Sea turtles benefiting from protected areas

Apr 29, 2013

Nesting green sea turtles are benefiting from marine protected areas by using habitats found within their boundaries, according to a U.S. Geological Survey study that is the first to track the federally protected ...

Satellite tracking reveals sea turtle feeding hotspots

Feb 06, 2012

Satellite tracking of threatened loggerhead sea turtles has revealed two previously unknown feeding 'hotspots' in the Gulf of Mexico that are providing important habitat for at least three separate populations of the turtles, ...

Recommended for you

Genome yields insights into golden eagle vision, smell

13 hours ago

Purdue and West Virginia University researchers are the first to sequence the genome of the golden eagle, providing a bird's-eye view of eagle features that could lead to more effective conservation strategies.

User comments : 0

More news stories

Genetic legacy of rare dwarf trees is widespread

Researchers from Queen Mary University of London have found genetic evidence that one of Britain's native tree species, the dwarf birch found in the Scottish Highlands, was once common in England.

Ocean microbes display remarkable genetic diversity

The smallest, most abundant marine microbe, Prochlorococcus, is a photosynthetic bacteria species essential to the marine ecosystem. An estimated billion billion billion of the single-cell creatures live i ...

Genetic code of the deadly tsetse fly unraveled

Mining the genome of the disease-transmitting tsetse fly, researchers have revealed the genetic adaptions that allow it to have such unique biology and transmit disease to both humans and animals.

Cell resiliency surprises scientists

New research shows that cells are more resilient in taking care of their DNA than scientists originally thought. Even when missing critical components, cells can adapt and make copies of their DNA in an alternative ...

Google+ boss leaving the company

The executive credited with bringing the Google+ social network to life is leaving the Internet colossus after playing a key role there for nearly eight years.