Big loss after 28 years of active reproduction
A sad message from Italy. The Italian marine species protection organization DelTA (Delfini e Tartarughe nel Golfo di Trieste) contacted us after finding a dead loggerhead in the Gulf of Trieste on October 26, 2020. The cause of death was not identifiable, however the turtle bore the ARCHELON identification mark with code M8153.
The news confirmed once more what we have known for several years, that the northern Adriatic is an important feeding and wintering area for turtles that lay eggs in Greece. But the important aspect is that this particular turtle was one of the oldest that have been marked in ARCHELON’s projects.
Indeed, the M8153 was first marked in Zakynthos in 1992 (with another tag that was later replaced by the M8153 you see in the photo) and since then it has been recorded nesting every 1-4 years in Zakynthos, and always on Sekania beach. Sea turtles start a new reproduction cycle when the energy reserves they have accumulated allow for the migration to the breeding area, the making of 1-4 nests in the summer and the return to the feeding / hibernation area.
In total, the M8153 was observed to make 18 nests in 11 years, from 1992 until the summer of 2018 when we last saw it nesting. However, it is almost certain that during this time it made other nests that were not observed. So, if the M8153 first laid eggs in 1992, when it was first tagged, this year it would complete 28 years of reproductive life!
The loggerhead tagging project in Zakynthos has been carried out since 1982. Every year, trained ARCHELON volunteers place special tags on the turtles’ flippers, which give valuable information regarding their breeding frequency and the location of their feeding areas in the Mediterranean. A very important finding of the ARCHELON tagging project is that loggerheads turtles have a reproductive life of up to over 33 years, which was a "first" at the international level. Thus, it seems sea turtles are able to overcome seasonal difficulties created over time by climatic or anthropogenic factors.
It is indeed very sad to lose these turtles. We thank the DelTA people at Grado, Italy, for contacting us and we end this note with the verse by Walt Whitman they sent us along with the turtle photos.
"Sail forth, steer for the deep waters only,
Reckless O soul, exploring, I with thee and thou with me,
For we are bound where mariner has not yet dared to go,
And we risk the ship, ourselves and all”
Photos: Karin Schlappa/ DelTA.