Migrating turtles don’t really know where they’re going, study shows

Migrating turtles don’t really know where they’re going, study shows

How migrating animals like sea turtles navigate hundreds to thousands of kilometres across the open ocean has intrigued biologists since Charles Darwin. But some sea turtles might not really know where they’re going, new research suggests.

Analysis by an international team of scientists has mapped the movements of hawksbill turtles as they swam from their nesting grounds in the Chagos Archipelago to foraging sites also in the Indian Ocean.

It found the turtles often travelled in circuitous routes when migrating short distances, suggesting the animals’ navigational sense is relatively crude while in the open ocean.

The turtles typically travelled twice the required distance to their target locations. One individual swam 1,306km to reach an island that was a mere 176km away – travelling more than seven times the beeline distance.

The team tagged and tracked via satellite 22 hawksbill turtles after they had finished nesting.

Lead Image: If only they could ride the EAC, dude. Hawksbill turtles in the Indian Ocean have relatively crude navigational sense, new research suggests. Photograph: James RD Scott/Getty Images.

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