Working with baby sea turtles sounds like an adorable way to make a living. You're not only championing an environmental cause by working with an endangered species, but you also get to work with some of the cutest creatures on the planet. It's enough to make a puppy wrangler extremely jealous.
Well, get ready to squeal so loudly with delight the neighbors will wonder if their fire alarm is sounding. Researchers at the University of Queensland in Australia made some tiny bathing suits for baby sea turtles all in the name of science.
Researchers with the university's School of Biological Sciences put the tiny swimsuits on six loggerhead sea turtles to collect their feces as part of a study that seeks to better understand their dietary habits.
Owen Coffee, a Ph.D. candidate at UQ's School of Biological Sciences, says he needed to collect an entire sample of sea turtle poop to complete his study, but that became a challenge because of the way the waste dispersed in the water. He first developed a "flexible funnel" worn over the turtles' tails that could collect the sample, but they wouldn't stay in place due to the sea turtles' size.
Kathy Townsend, a lecturer and education coordinator of the University of Queensland's Moreton Bay Research Station that housed the sea turtles in seawater tanks, suggested using swimsuit material to make a harness that could hold the funnels in place.
"After a few modifications, including Velcro attachments for the 'nappy,' we hoped we had the perfect solution to our unusual problem," Townsend says in a statement. "To our great surprise, it worked perfectly."
Coffee's study aims to understand the diet of these endangered species so he and other researchers can identify the places where they forage for food. This will hopefully not only lead to a better understanding of these animals' eating habits but also to ways of protecting this endangered species.
The World Widelife Fund lists loggerhead sea turtles as an endangered species, even though they are less likely to be hunted for their meat or shells. The website says that every year "hundreds of thousands" of loggerhead sea turtles get caught in shrimp trawl nets, long-line hooks and fishing gill nets as they migrate. They often drown when they're caught because they need to reach the surface of the water to breathe.
If we put more tiny swimsuits on sea turtles, I bet their unabashed cuteness would move the fishing industry to develop safer equipment for them.