Once in the water, sea turtle hatchlings rapidly establish offshore courses that lead them away from land and directly toward the open sea. Moving quickly through coastal waters is crucial to the survival of young turtles, because fish and bird predators are abundant in nearshore waters. How do turtles maintain their orientation during this critical journey? Experiments both in the field and in the lab have revealed that, early in the offshore migration, hatchlings guide themselves seaward by swimming into waves.

Field experiments

How do sea turtles detect waves?

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References for this Section:

Lohmann, K. J., and C. M. F. Lohmann. 1992. Orientation to oceanic waves by hatchling green turtles. Journal of Experimental Biology. 171:1-13. [Download pdf]

Lohmann, K. J., M. Salmon, and J. Wyneken. 1990. Functional autonomy of land and sea orientation systems in sea turtle hatchlings. Biological Bulletin. 179: 214-218. [Download pdf]

Lohmann, K. J., A. W. Swartz, and C. M. F. Lohmann. 1995. Perception of ocean wave direction by sea turtles. Journal of Experimental Biology. 198: 1079-1085. [Download pdf]

Salmon, M. and K. J. Lohmann. 1989. Orientation cues used by hatchling loggerhead sea turtles (Caretta caretta L.) during their offshore migration. Ethology. 83: 215-228.

Wyneken, J., M. Salmon, and K. J. Lohmann. 1990. Orientation by hatchling loggerhead sea turtles (Caretta caretta L.) in a wave tank. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology. 139: 43-50.

last edited 04/28/2004