Dr Kellie Pendoley was part of a collaboration of scientists from UWA, AIMS, DPaW, and Pendoley Environmental who teamed up to track green turtle hatchlings as they leave the beach and see if they are affected by artificial lights offshore. Released today in the international journal Royal Society of Open Science this publication gives an indication of the effects of artificial light on green turtle hatchlings.
Dr Pendoley has been studying the potential effects of artificial light on hatchlings during the first few hours at sea, for several decades. Recent advances in tracking technology, specifically the development of the miniature acoustic transmitters used in this experiment, have made dispersal studies such as this an exciting opportunity not previously available.
The team tracked 40 hatchlings, subjecting 20 of them to artificial light located at a fixed point offshore. Of the 20 hatchlings exposed to artificial light, 88 % travelled toward the light, and spent 23 % more time in the nearshore area, where there is a greater predation risk.
Through collaboration with multiple experts, the study isolated the influence of natural variables, such as sea surface currents, thought to affect how fast hatchlings travel and the direction they go while still in the near-shore zone.
The authors found current speed affected hatchling travel direction only when it was moving faster than 33 cm per second and when artificial light was present; under ambient light conditions there was no effect regardless of how fast the currents were moving.
Michele Thums, Scott D. Whiting, Julia Reisser, Kellie L. Pendoley, Charitha B. Pattiaratchi, Maira Proietti, Yasha Hetzel, Rebecca Fisher, Mark G. Meekan (2016) Artificial light on water attracts turtle hatchlings during their near shore transit R. Soc. open sci. 2016 3 160142; DOI: 10.1098/rsos.160142.