Diving Turtles

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Leatherback Turtles (Dermochelys coriacea) are expert divers who plunge down into the ocean to catch food and cool-off from the hot tropical sun. But how do these reptiles move through the water: do they exhale all their air and sink to the bottom like a rock, or do they doggie-paddle their way to the bottom? To find out, water-proof trackers were attached to five female turtles in the wild. The information that was collected from them gave scientists a really good idea about how these turtles dive.

leatherback turtle swimming
Flickr credit: johnnymd314

It was revealed that the Leatherbacks, unlike many other diving animals, dive with their lungs full of air. As they go down into the ocean, the air inside their bodies gets compressed and they achieve something called neutral or negative buoyancy (which basically means there body density matches that of the water). At this stage, they can move through the water without having to fight the force of positive buoyancy; allowing them to easily glide deep underwater. When they’re ready to return to the surface, all they do is swim upward until the air in their bodies expands and carries them to the surface. You could say they’re like miniature submarines – so cool!

http://jeb.biologists.org/cgi/content/full/213/23/ii

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