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The Plight Of Turtles
Posted by Dr. Ben Kim on Dec 16, 2006
Is there a soul among us who cannot help but appreciate the laid-back nature of the slow and steady turtle? Last week, I ran across a fascinating article on the world's most lovable reptile.
What follows are some amazing facts about turtles that I learned from the Times article:
- Due in large part to its slow metabolism, a turtle can survive for centuries. In March of 2005, a giant tortoise named Adwaita died in a Calcutta zoo at 250 years of age.
- Despite a wrinkly appearance, when compared to all other animals that scientists know of, the organs of a turtle do not gradually degenerate or become less functional over time.
- A turtle's heart does not need to beat at a steady rhythm. Turtles can turn their hearts on and off at will, depending on their moment-to-moment needs.
- Among some populations of sea turtles, females do not mature sexually until they reach their 40's or 50's.
- Box turtles and other species that live in forests can detect a pond or lake that is as far as a mile away, possibly by detecting polarized light coming off the surface of the water.
- Female sea turtles can migrate across entire oceans every breeding season, finding their way back to the same beach where they were born to lay their own eggs.
- Turtles vary greatly in size, from a speckled padloper tortoise in South America that is no bigger than a computer mouse, to the great leatherback sea turtle, which can be up to seven feet long and as heavy as 2,000 pounds. Totally awesome, right dude?
Sadly, the loveable turtle, so well protected against natural predators by its shell, is suffering at the hands of humans.
Millions of turtles are being killed each year by automobiles alone.
Millions more are drowned, crushed, and killed in an number of other gruesome ways by the fishing industry.
According to the New York Times article, at least 50 percent of all turtle species worldwide are in serious trouble, while certain species like the Galapagos tortoise, the North American bog turtle, and the Pacific leatherback sea turtle are in danger of going extinct within the next ten years. Dozens of species throughout Southeast Asia and China also face extinction over the next decade.
It's not just a sad fact that humans are causing the premature death of millions of turtles every year. This reality spells trouble for all living creatures, humans included, due to the countless contributions that turtles of all species make to the global ecosystem.
To learn more about the plight of turtles and what various not-for-profit organizations are doing to address this issue, please visit the following Web sites:
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