Wednesday, 25th July 2012
The giants of the marine turtles, Leatherback Sea Turtles are oceanic reptiles that reach up to 2.75m in length. These dark green or black-skinned turtles are often speckled with white or pink blotches. Their name comes from their leathery-covered back, which is comprised of many thin, interlocking bone-like segments that make up the carapace. The Leatherback Sea Turtle is listed as a world endangered species. The world population estimates indicate a decline in numbers between 1980 and 2005. This is attributed to a number of factors including loss of nesting habitat, destruction of nests by poachers, ingestion of marine debris including oil, propeller wounds and mortality from fishing nets and other fishery operations.
Leatherbacks have a number of interesting features. Besides being 'soft-shelled', they are able to maintain their body temperature considerably higher then their surroundings thus disputing the traditional theory that all reptiles are cold-blooded. This extraordinary ability explains why leatherbacks can range as far north as Iceland, Greenland and Newfoundland where the sea temperature even in the summer is only in the 30-40 degree range. They nest on sandy beaches in the tropics. They feed exclusively on jellyfish. In fact, their esophagus has backward pointing spines that aid in their swallowing such soft, slippery food.
Leatherbacks are not common in Ireland but are sometimes seen between June and October. They have been recorded in Waterford on six occasions. The first positive record is of one caught in salmon nets between Woodstown and Duncannon in July 1976. It measured just short of 2m. It was brought to shore, disentangled, released and was last seen heading out to sea. Another one that measured 2.44m was caught in the same way off Ardmore on the following day. It too was released. Yet another that measured 1.9m from beak to tail was caught in the same way in September 1983 and in August 1989, a dead turtle was found washed ashore at Whiting Bay. This was buried by the County Council and measured 2.13m. A photograph of it later appeared in the Cork Examiner. The partial remains of a leathery turtle were examined and identified by Patrick Smiddy at Ardmore in April 1997. The remains included part of the distinctive ridged carapace which is diagnostic with this species. The last record and the first one for the twenty-first century is of a complete carapace found on the north-east side of Tramore Back Strand between the inlets of Corbally and Cloghernagh in October 2002. This was washed in during the storms of early September and the local farmer moved the body from the shoreline to a grassy bank with a digger. The carapace measured 1.76m. Details and images of Waterford's wildlife may be viewed on the 'Recent News' page of the Waterford Wildlife web-site - http://www.waterfordwildlife.com.
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Not so GR8 G8With world attention on Fermanagh as the meeting place of the latest G8 Summit it is no wonder that locals are basking in the reflected spotlight. We have all been told, if we haven't already experienced at first hand, the beauty of the location. We know about the exclusiveness of the hotels that the various leaders are going to be staying as well as some of their security detail. We know about the menus from which they will be choosing from. There is little about summit meeting that the …
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