Turtles made from tires help researchers solve mystery - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Turtles made from tires help researchers solve mystery

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Researchers from the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies are using fake turtles to investigate the deaths of hundreds of real Kemp's Ridley turtles. Researchers from the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies are using fake turtles to investigate the deaths of hundreds of real Kemp's Ridley turtles.
MISSISSIPPI SOUND (WLOX) -

Fake turtles, made with small tractor tires, could help solve a mystery about hundreds of dead turtles.

In recent years, record numbers of dead Kemp's Ridley turtles have washed ashore along the Mississippi coast. An ongoing "turtle effigy" project may help scientists answer some critical questions.

These turtle effigies are about to be deployed in the Mississippi Sound.

"The weight of it, and the shape, really imitates juvenile Kemp's Ridley," said Dr. Andy Coleman, as he prepared the imitation turtles for the journey.

"They have a GPS tracking device that records their movements," he explained.

We leave the small craft harbor under bright sun and chilly temperatures. Two miles south in the Mississippi Sound, the scientists prepare to toss the turtles overboard so the research can begin.

"What these effigies are supposed to simulate is how a sea turtle carcass would drift, based on the winds and the currents," said Dr. Coleman.

They've already created a tracking model based on where the dead turtles washed ashore. These effigies may or may not validate that data.

"We're trying to understand where all these turtles are washing up because they are washing up at a time when the state is not recording a lot of fishing effort in Mississippi waters. But the abnormally high number of strandings that have happened the past few years, they're coming from somewhere. We're just trying to understand that," said Dr. Coleman.

Scientists will take the drifting data, then backtrack from the locations where turtles washed ashore.

"This is telling us where these strandings are coming from. And that's really a missing piece of the puzzle. But something that's really important to know," said researcher Jonathan Pitchford.

"As the winds push out and then the tide comes in, they'll kind of work against each other so the effigies will move back and forth in the Sound," said Dr. Coleman.

Hopefully, not drifting aimlessly, but rather providing valuable clues about turtle strandings.

Copyright 2013 WLOX. All rights reserved.

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