May 2019 - Mating season frenzy

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Sea turtles mating in Argostoli bay

Hi everyone, we’re back! It’s great to be back in Kefalonia as we get ready to start the new season. There’s some exciting changes in store this year, with both Argostoli and Lixouri projects changing accommodation. The leadership team is growing in number as more of us arrive each week, and we’re all hands on deck to prepare everything for the arrival of our first volunteers in a few weeks’ time. When we’re not busy at the accommodation, we’ve been patrolling the Argostoli harbour and observing the increasing amount of turtle activity as mating season progresses.

Wildlife Sense researcher observes interacting sea turtles

Nesting may not have begun yet, but it can’t be far away – if you’ve been keeping up to date with our Facebook page you’ll have seen that we’ve been super lucky to see turtles mating all around the harbour. There were mating pairs everywhere we looked on Sunday, including a pair that drifted right up to the harbour wall. Turtles mate for several hours at a time, spending a considerable amount of that time below the surface, and so a pair can drift all the way across the harbour. With so many males in the crowded harbour it’s rarely a private affair. We saw a lot of intruders trying to muscle in on mating pairs, sometimes up to 3 other males targeting the same pair. Male turtles have long hooked claws on their front flippers, which help keep them anchored to their partner’s carapace when they’re being bothered by intruders. Testosterone levels are through the roof during mating season, which turns the males’ plastrons soft and spongy as another aid for sticking to their partner.

Researchers tagging male sea turtle in Argostoli harbour

On Friday we held our first tagging event. Over a very productive few hours, the team were able to tag 7 new turtles, finishing with the largest living male tagged by the project (newly christened as Falco). This giant has a curved carapace length of over 91cm, with a curved width eclipsing the length of a lot of smaller turtles! Over the weekend we saw one of the males we had marked on Friday mating successfully, which was incredible to witness. Wildlife Sense have now tagged 187 different turtles, and with so many more untagged swimming around we hope to reach 200 very shortly.

Three sea turltes mating in Argostoli bay

Lastly, we also celebrated an important birthday this week (happy birthday Annya!) in true Wildlife Sense fashion – with a beautiful turtle-shaped cake. Stay tuned here and on our Facebook for more updates (and birthdays) over the next few weeks as we count down to the start of the 2019 season.

 

Written by Simon

Tags: Argostoli, sea turtle