A turtle has set a new record for the longest recorded migration journey through the ocean.
The tagged female leatherback turtle crossed the Pacific from west to East and then part of the way back again.
It was tracked by satellite for 647 days and covered at least 12,774 miles before the signal was lost.
The turtle’s epic journey took it from Jamursba-Medi beach in Papua, Indonesia where it was first recorded nesting, to Oregon on the Pacific northwest coast of America.
Of vertebrates that travel through the ocean, the leatherback’s journey was the longest ever recorded.
The leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea) is the most widely distributed marine reptile on the planet and is found in warm open seas across the world including the Pacific, Indian and Atlantic oceans.
But they have also been seen in freezing waters off Argentina, southern Chile, and Tasmania as well as the subarctic northern latitudes off Alaska, Nova Scotia, and the North Sea.
They are massive creatures and can span nine feet weight from the tip of one front flipper to the tip of the other and can weigh 1200lbs.
Adults migrate from their temperate feeding and foraging areas to tropical breeding grounds and tagging is gradually unlocking some of the secrets of their migration paths.
Work by the US’s National Marine Fisheries Service, at the Southwest Fisheries Science Center, with international partners in Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, and the Solomon Islands has revealed that leather_backs living in the North Pacific, including waters near the U.S. west coast, are part of the western Pacific breeding population.
Details of the turtle’s odyssey were given in the State of the World’s Sea Turtles (SWOT) magazine at the 28th Annual Symposium on Sea Turtle Biology and Conservation, being held in Loreto, Baja California Sur, Mexico.
Scott Benson, one of the scientists involved in the research, said: “Understanding sea turtles’ and other marine animals’ movements in this way is critical to ensuring their protection. Ocean-going animals often pass through multiple nations’ territories and international waters as they migrate, making their survival the responsibility of not just one nation but many.”
Roderic B Mast, chief editor of SWOT, as well as a vice president of Conservation International and co-chair of the IUCN Marine Turtle Specialist Group, said: “SWOT Report is all about providing a global perspective of sea turtles to encourage international protection of these ancient, endangered animals.
This one leatherback’s migration provides a perfect example of how marine conservation strategies must be as global as the ocean life we are trying to safeguard.”
Scientific research has shown that nesting turtles from the western Pacific, which is the last sizable nesting population remaining in the Pacific, migrate through areas in the Philippines, South China Sea, and Japan, into the Southern Hemisphere. The species has become endangered in the Pacific and has led to work on an internationally coordinated conservation strategy.
*The longest measured annual migration of any animal, terrestrial or marine, is the sooty shearwater (Puffinus griseus) of 40,000 miles between New Zealand and the North Pacific.