A study proves that during their migration, turtles do not really know where they are going

According to a study published on Wednesday, sea turtles often take longer routes than necessary when they want to travel short distances.

Sea turtles return to lay eggs where they were born. But when they migrate, some of them might not really know where they are going, according to a recent study published in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface and quoted by our colleagues from Guardian.

Thus, one of the 22 turtles observed by scientists in the Indian Ocean traveled more than a thousand kilometers… to reach an island located 176 km away. The 20 or so turtles were tracked by satellite to their feeding grounds after they laid their eggs on an island in the Chagos Archipelago in the Indian Ocean.

Professor Graeme Hays of Deakin University, who conducted the study, told the British daily that if the turtles were perfect navigators, they would have traveled in straight lines. Especially since, according to the scientist, the marine animals did not eat for several months.

However, the results of their study show, sea turtles most often take circuitous routes when migrating over short distances, and therefore have only a “rudimentary” sense of orientation in the open sea.

Turtles use visual cues

In the British daily, Graeme Hays explains that the new study suggests that the turtles “most certainly use a geomagnetic map”, the resolution of which is “quite coarse”.

To navigate, animals therefore use other means to reach their destination. “When the turtles get some sort of visual cue, like when the water starts to get a little shallower and they can see the seabed, then they’ve probably got some sort of cognitive map of that area,” says Graeme Hays

“They can probably recognize the seabed, just like you recognize visual landmarks in the area where you live,” he says.

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