Wang, J. H., Jackson, J. K., and K. J. Lohmann. 1998. Perception of wave surge motion by hatchling sea turtles. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 229: 177-186.
At the beginning of their offshore migration, hatchling loggerhead sea turtles (Caretta caretta L.) enter the ocean and establish offshore headings while swimming near the substratum. In the shallow water of coastal areas, waves approaching the beach induce water near the ocean floor to move toward and away from shore in a rhythmic, horizontal motion known as wave surge. To determine whether hatchlings can detect wave surge and use it as a cue in orientation, we constructed a surge simulator that produced movements closely resembling those that small, oceanic waves generate near the substratum. Hatchlings suspended in air and subjected to simulated surge approaching from their right or left sides spent significantly more time attempting to turn than did turtles aligned parallel with the surge axis. These results demonstrate that turtles can indeed detect surge motion and orient along its axis. Such a response may play a brief but important role in enabling turtles to maintain offshore headings as they swim through shallow water to the open ocean.
To reach a page from which the full paper can be downloaded, click here. (Note: this requires institutional or personal membership in "Science Direct").