Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

How diving leatherback turtles regulate buoyancy

12.11.2010
Leatherback turtles are remarkably versatile divers. Routinely diving to depths of several hundred meters, leatherbacks are occasionally known to plunge as deep as 1250m.

The animals probably plumb the depths to avoid predators, search for prey and avoid heat in the tropics. However it wasn't clear how these mammoth reptiles regulate their buoyancy as they plunge down.

Sabrina Fossette from Swansea University explains that no one knew how the turtles descended so far: do they swim down or become negatively buoyant and plummet like a stone? Curious to find out how nesting leatherbacks plumb the depths, Rory Wilson and his long time collaborator, Molly Lutcavage, decided to deploy data loggers containing triaxial accelerometers on leatherback females as they nested on beaches on St Croix in the US Virgin Islands. They found that leatherbacks probably regulate their buoyancy by varying the amount of air they inhale just before submersion and publish their discovery on Nov. 12, 2010 in the Journal of Experimental Biology at http://jeb.biologists.org/cgi/content/abstract/213/23/4074.

'When you first see a leatherback turtle coming out of the water it's like a dinosaur it's really impressive,' says Fossette, having just returned from collecting data in the Indian Ocean. According to Fossette, Andy Myers, Nikolai Liebsch and Steve Garner attached accelerometers to five females as they laid their eggs, and then waited 8-12 days for the reptiles to return to the beach to lay more eggs having headed out to sea. Retrieving the accelerometers, the team found that only two of the five had collected usable data, but the data loggers that functioned showed 81 dives that the team could analyse ranging from 64m down to 462m.

Back in Swansea, Fossette, Adrian Gleiss, Graeme Hays and Rory Wilson analysed the temperature, pressure and acceleration data collected by the loggers. Describing the accelerometer data Fossette says, "You can almost see the animal swimming. It's the first time we could see the locomotor activity during those deep dives."

Extracting the acceleration data that showed the leatherbacks' movements, the team could see that the turtles dived deeply at an average angle of 41deg as they began their descent. Initially the turtles swam with each flipper stroke lasting 3s, but as they descended further they swam less hard until they stopped swimming all together, became negatively buoyant and began gliding down. At the bottom of the dive, the turtles began swimming as they heading to the surface and continued swimming until they regained buoyancy near the surface and began gliding again.

Fossette explains that many diving animals exhale before they leave the surface to minimise the risk of decompression sickness, however, leatherbacks do not. They dive carrying a lung full of air. Curious to find whether leatherbacks vary the amount of air that they inhale to regulate their buoyancy, Fossette and Gleiss compared the depths at which the turtles became negatively buoyant with the maximum depth that they reached. The team found that the deepest divers remained buoyant the longest and started gliding at deeper depths. So the turtles probably regulate their buoyancy before diving by varying the amount of air they inhale. Fossette also says, "The nesting turtles may glide for 80 percent of the dive's descent to optimise their energetic reserves, which is crucial for the production of eggs."

The team is now keen to look at the diving patterns of leatherbacks in their foraging grounds in the North Atlantic. Fossette explains that nesting turtles lose weight while foraging turtles are gaining weight and this could affect their buoyancy and diving behaviour. However, tagging a 400kg turtle in the ocean is a much bigger problem than tagging them on a beach.

IF REPORTING ON THIS STORY, PLEASE MENTION THE JOURNAL OF EXPERIMENTAL BIOLOGY AS THE SOURCE AND, IF REPORTING ONLINE, PLEASE CARRY A LINK TO: http://jeb.biologists.org

Fossette, S., Gleiss, A. C., Myers, A. E., Garner, S., Liebsch, N., Whitney, N., Hays, G. C., Wilson, R. P. and Lutcavage, M. E. (2010). Behaviour and buoyancy regulation in the deepest-diving reptile: the leatherback turtle. J. Exp. Biol. 213, 4074-4083.

This article is posted on this site to give advance access to other authorised media who may wish to report on this story. Full attribution is required, and if reporting online a link to jeb.biologists.com is also required. The story posted here is COPYRIGHTED. Therefore advance permission is required before any and every reproduction of each article in full. PLEASE CONTACT permissions@biologists.com

Kathryn Knight | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.biologists.com

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht MicroRNA helps cancer evade immune system
19.09.2017 | Salk Institute

nachricht Ruby: Jacobs University scientists are collaborating in the development of a new type of chocolate
18.09.2017 | Jacobs University Bremen gGmbH

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Ultrafast snapshots of relaxing electrons in solids

Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!

When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...

Im Focus: Quantum Sensors Decipher Magnetic Ordering in a New Semiconducting Material

For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.

Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...

Im Focus: Fast, convenient & standardized: New lab innovation for automated tissue engineering & drug

MBM ScienceBridge GmbH successfully negotiated a license agreement between University Medical Center Göttingen (UMG) and the biotech company Tissue Systems Holding GmbH about commercial use of a multi-well tissue plate for automated and reliable tissue engineering & drug testing.

MBM ScienceBridge GmbH successfully negotiated a license agreement between University Medical Center Göttingen (UMG) and the biotech company Tissue Systems...

Im Focus: Silencing bacteria

HZI researchers pave the way for new agents that render hospital pathogens mute

Pathogenic bacteria are becoming resistant to common antibiotics to an ever increasing degree. One of the most difficult germs is Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a...

Im Focus: Artificial Enzymes for Hydrogen Conversion

Scientists from the MPI for Chemical Energy Conversion report in the first issue of the new journal JOULE.

Cell Press has just released the first issue of Joule, a new journal dedicated to sustainable energy research. In this issue James Birrell, Olaf Rüdiger,...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

“Lasers in Composites Symposium” in Aachen – from Science to Application

19.09.2017 | Event News

I-ESA 2018 – Call for Papers

12.09.2017 | Event News

EMBO at Basel Life, a new conference on current and emerging life science research

06.09.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

“Lasers in Composites Symposium” in Aachen – from Science to Application

19.09.2017 | Event News

New quantum phenomena in graphene superlattices

19.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

A simple additive to improve film quality

19.09.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>