Researchers have discovered why baby leatherback turtles are unable to see the sea when they first hatch and make their way to the safety of the oceans.
When they hatch, the turtles emerge from their sandy nests and start to make their way to the ocean. Unfortunately, it has been observed that baby leatherbacks will regularly waste their time and energy going around in circles on the beach.
This, unfortunately, tires them out and leaves them vulnerable to predation by a host of creatures, including crabs and birds. Researchers from Florida Atlantic University discovered that the turtles do this because they are less sensitive to light than some other turtle species.
According to Samantha Trail, the study’s first author and Ph.D. student in the Department of Biological Sciences at the Charles E. Schmidt College of Science:
“Leatherback eyes are less sensitive to all wavelengths of light than loggerheads, and during a dark night, they experience difficulty in determining the location of the seaward horizon. Even so, leatherback hatchlings eventually crawl to the sea, even during new moon. It just takes them longer because they stop occasionally to circle, which we think enables them to re-evaluate, and eventually confirm, the correct crawl direction.”
The study results were published in the journal Animal Behaviour, which you can find here.