The first day most of us arrived was a Saturday in May. We were all tired from driving. But before I arrived David, Jeremy and some of the park rangers found a turtle that was sick and dying. It had come onto Bear Island and died shortly after. It was a sad finding, but rewarding for us because we had an actual specimen to learn from for our training.
The day of training we dissected her and man was it an experience! Up until that point the largest thing I had dissected was a fetal pig and even then I couldn’t stand the smell! But having to deal with the smell of a sea turtle was completely different. I hate dissections because it twists my stomach into a knot and it’s hard for me to even look inside. While I was standing off to the side for most of the dissection, David, Jeremy, and Danica were all into the turtle taking pictures and making sure they didn’t miss a thing. I figured they would much rather look at a turtle than my breakfast so I watched from a couple feet away. Every once in a while I went over to poke at something to make it look like I was doing okay a to let everyone know I was paying attention.
We learned during the dissection that it was a female and while they cut open her intestines we found worms. We did not determine if she got these parasites before she was sick, which could have played a role in her illness, or if she got them afterwards from having a low immune system. Either way, we all learned a lot that day about turtle anatomy.
I learned that Sea Turtles can have a syndrome called debilitated turtle syndrome, which is when they accumulate too many barnacles and/or fungus on their bodies. For a turtle to have some, this is healthy and good for them, but if a turtle has debilitated turtle syndrome it can weigh them down and create a problem while they are swimming and trying to catch food. This turtle, along with the worms, had this syndrome and it could have played a role in its death.
As we looked into her I also learned about how a Loggerhead’s esophagus has filters called papillae. Which are able to filter things out that they don’t/can’t digest. This was especially interesting because I had never seen something so amazing in another animal. Most of what I’ve seen in other animals I had recognized from my own species, but this was very different from anything I had seen before!
Overall, training was a great day! As we dissected her we were able to learn about nesting, feeding habits, and their reproduction habits. Below I’ve put some links for web pages about Sea Turtles. Hope you enjoy them as much as I did!
National Geographic with Sea Turtles:http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/reptiles/loggerhead-sea-turtle/
Kids National Geographic Sea Turtle Page:http://kids.nationalgeographic.com/kids/animals/creaturefeature/loggerhead/
NOAA Loggerhead Sea Turtle Page: http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/species/turtles/loggerhead.htm