VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — The Virginia Aquarium Stranding Response Team went around Virginia Beach excavating sea turtle nests on Tuesday.
Excavating nests allows researchers to check for straggler hatchlings and learn about the nest's success rate. Researchers have been keeping a close eye on a handful of nests at the Virginia Beach Oceanfront since they were laid.
Research Coordinator for the Virginia Aquarium Susan Barco said there’s a lot of activity that goes on beneath the sand.
"They're alive in the nest for awhile, and they absorb some of the yolk sack and straighten out and stop being in the shape of an egg shell, and start being in the shape of a turtle,” said Barco.
During their excavation, researchers found 11 little stragglers. The hatchlings found Tuesday will stay with Virginia Aquarium for the next year before they are officially released, so they can be studied. Officials will also tag the turtles, and strengthen them so they can return in the future.
"They'll get little teeny transmitters, and we'll let them go out in the gulf stream and track how they move, in relation to how the gulf stream goes,” said Barco.
Usually, when the turtles leave the nest and aren't stragglers, they imprint. Imprinting is when the sea turtles leave a beach then, years later, locate the same area of coastline after traveling long distances through the sea.
"They kind of get a group together and they make their way very slowly down the beach. The animals as they make their way down to the beach as hatchlings have some kind of imprinting that kind of tells them where their natal beach is,” said Barco.
Female turtles usually return to the same beach around the age of 30 to lay eggs of her own.
The Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center Stranding Response Program is responsible for rendering aid to all marine mammals and sea turtles that come ashore in Virginia. Whether sick, injured, dead, or entrapped, the Stranding Program works to examine these animals and provide the most humane course of action given the situation.
To report a stranded marine mammal or sea turtle, please call us on the 24-hour Stranding Hotline at (757) 385-7575.
Click here to learn more about the Stranding Response Team.