Cali the turtle “spinning in circles”

National Geographic map of the Great Turtle Race

National Geographic map of the Great Turtle Race

I signed up for daily updates on the Great Turtle Race from Conservation International, hoping to get some insights on the pace of the race, some clues to the contestants behavior to help predict the deepest and longest divers among these turtles. I am guessing size and gender will play a role in their dive capacity.

Today I got this in my inbox, from Olympic swim coach Rowdy Gaines.

Billy continues his zig-zag southward, but is closer to the US coastline than the other turtles. Will his detour help him shave some time of his trip and win the Race?

Cali is spinning in circles, maybe getting his bearings before making his move south.

Graphic of North Atlantic eddies from Univ. of Liverpool

Graphic of eddies from Univ. of Liverpool

Spinning in circles? Or diving for jellies? When I see circles on a map of the oceans, I think “eddies”.

Upwelling cyclonic (cold core) eddies in the North Atlantic bring deep nutrients to the surface. Downwelling warm core eddies can co-occur with upwelling eddies, an oceanic waltz referred to as the “modon”. Downwelling currents could be useful to a turtle, reducing the effort required to access the deep scattering layer of diel migrators. See examples at Science Corner and the Univ. of Liverpool website.

It sure would be nice to see daily dive data on these leatherback turtles. It’s hard to know exactly what’s happening, but it sure is fun watching them race. If you haven’t tuned in it yet, check out the race maps at National Geographic. Billy, Nueva Esperanza, and Wawa Bear currently have the lead.

Peter Etnoyer (406 Posts)

PhD candidate at Texas A&M University- Corpus Christi and doctoral fellow Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies.





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