Blog Post By: Dalton Moore, Sea Turtle Intern
After hatchlings leave the nest, some turtles slowly reach their way to the Atlantic Ocean. But what happens after these courageous swimmers paddle themselves into the moonlight? This time is a bit of a blur that scientist have termed the “lost years” of a sea turtles’ life. Furthermore, there is no concrete evidence about where hatchlings exactly travel.
Marine biologist from the University of Central Florida Kate Mansfield stated, “We don’t know where the turtles go, how they get there, how they interact with their environment.” For the Caretta caretta species (Loggerheads), the lost years phase lasts from 7-12 years from birth. This is considered a huge portion of their life that conservationist do not completely understand. Groups along with Kate Mansfield’s team have found ways to determine where the hatchlings advance. By tagging and tracking via satellite, adolescent turtles spend their early years navigating long distances and loitering around seaweed beds within the Sargasso Sea.
In order to conserve energy, it is expected that neonatal loggerheads take the Gulf Stream and follow the current into the mid-Atlantic where the genus Sargassum floats upon the surface. Within this area the infant turtles spend their time feeding on small crustaceans, hydrozoans, sargassum seaweed, jellyfish, etc. The turtles will also use the seaweed to stay hidden from predators. If they did not avoid coastal areas on the continental shelf, predators such as seabirds and sharks would likely interrogate them. They will continue to feed here until they become the approximate size of a dinner plate and travel back to their general area of birth where predators will not be as much as an issue.
Sea Turtle Biologist