Detection of coastal mud odors by loggerhead sea turtles: a possible mechanism for sensing nearby land
For sea turtles, an ability to detect land masses from a considerable distance away, and to distinguish coastal areas from the open sea, might be adaptive. The loggerhead turtle, Caretta caretta, can detect airborne odorants associated with food. To investigate whether sea turtles can also detect odors associated with land, we studied the responses of juvenile loggerheads to odors from coastal mud. Turtles were tested in a water-filled arena in which odorants could be introduced to the air above the water surface. Turtles exposed to air that had passed over a cup containing mud spent more time with their noses out of the water than did control turtles exposed to air that had passed over a cup containing distilled water. The results demonstrate for the first time that loggerheads can detect airborne odorants associated with land, an ability that might play a role in foraging, navigation, or both.
- Bartol SM, Musick JA (2003) Sensory biology of sea turtles. In: Lutz PL, Musick JA, Wyneken J (eds) Biology of sea turtles, vol 1. CRC Press, Boca Raton, pp 79–102Google Scholar
- Bolten AB (2003) Active swimmers-passive drifters: the oceanic juvenile stage of loggerheads in the Atlantic system. In: Bolten A, Witherington B (eds) Loggerhead sea turtles. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, pp 63–98Google Scholar
- Carr AF, Carr MH, Meylan MB (1978) The ecology and migrations of sea turtles 7: the west Caribbean green turtle colony. Bull Am Mus Nat Hist 162:1–48Google Scholar
- Musick JA, Limpus CJ (1997) Habitat utilization and migration in juvenile sea turtles. In: Lutz P, Musick JA (eds) The biology of sea turtles. CRC Press, Boca Raton, pp 137–163Google Scholar
- Owens DW, Grassman MA, Hendrickson JR (1982) The imprinting hypothesis and sea turtle reproduction. Herpetologica 38:124–135Google Scholar
- Schwenk K (2008) Comparative anatomy of physiology of chemical senses in nonavian aquatic reptiles. In: Thewissen JGM, Nummels S (eds) Sensory evolution on the Threshold. Adaptations in Secondarily Aquatic Vertebrates. University of California Press, Berkley, pp 65–81Google Scholar