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05 Mar 2014: Routes of Young Sea Turtles
Shed Light on Mystery of Turtles' Lost Years

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turtle tracks

Sea turtle tracks
By placing satellite tags on newborn sea turtles along the coast of Florida and tracking them in the western Atlantic Ocean, researchers have gained new insights into the early migrations of threatened and endangered turtles during their so-called "lost years" between hatching and returning to coastal waters as large juveniles. Rather than swimming in the currents of the North Atlantic gyre, as scientists had assumed, the young turtles actually leave the gyre and travel to the Sargasso Sea, which lies in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean. While there, sensors on the turtles' shells registered more heat than the scientists expected, leading them to believe that the young turtles swim near the surface of the Sargasso, basking in sunlight and feeding on a type of seaweed that grows in deep ocean waters. "From the time they leave our shores, we don't hear anything about them until they surface near the Canary Islands, which is like their primary school years," said a co-author of the study, published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B. "There's a whole lot that happens during the Atlantic crossing that we knew nothing about."

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