Traditionally turtles have been famous for their navigation skills, as they migrate hundreds of miles to the beaches they were born on to lay their eggs.
Now, a team of scientists studying Hawksbill turtles has found that they may not be that good at navigation after all.
The team found that turtles regularly did not take the most direct route to their destination and, more often than not, ended up swimming more than double the necessary distance to get to their destination. In fact, one particular turtle undertook a huge 800-mile/1,287-km journey to reach an island a mere 100 miles/161km away.
Professor Graeme Hays, the study’s first author and chair of marine science at Deakin University, told The Independent newspaper that turtles “almost certainly are using a geomagnetic map…So, it doesn’t allow pinpoint straight-line migration, but it does tell them when they’re getting a long way off route.”
“In the final stages, they can smell an island that they’re headed to… As they get some sort of visual landmark – for example, the water starts to get a bit shallower, and they can see the seabed – then they’ve probably got some sort of cognitive map of that area. They could probably just recognise the sea floor, just like you would recognise visual landmarks in the area where you live.”
You can find out more and read the research paper here.