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Rare Sea Turtle 'Cold-Stunned This Time off British Columbia

Jan 31, 2016 07:24 PM EST
Green sea turtle in Hawaii
The Vancouver Aquarium, in Vancouver, Canada, recently took in a hypothermic green sea turtle, which had evidently followed warm currents out of its usual southerly range and become cold-stunned by suddenly chilling water temperatures, ending up on a beach on the western side of Vancouver Island.
(Photo : Flickr: Julian Fong)

While we've recently heard a lot about green sea turtles and other types of sea turtles "cold-stunned," or exposed to suddenly increasingly cold water and suffering from hypothermia, most of those were along the Atlantic Coast. But the Vancouver Aquarium in Vancouver, Canada recently took in a green sea turtle experiencing the same thing on the coast of British Columbia's Vancouver Island, reported an article in the Canadian newspaper The Province.

This sometimes happens there too, when turtles follow warmer currents north and end up in B.C. or Alaska. Green sea turtles are usually found in warmer waters, because they are cold-blooded reptiles and need warm water to function well. On the West Coast, they tend to spend time around Hawaii and Mexico.

The turtle in question was found in Pacific Rim National Park Preserve. Parks Canada officials removed the turtle from the beach, and it was then taken to the aquarium to join the Marine Mammal Rescue Center.

Seeing such a turtle this year is not that unusual: "It's something we see more often during years with above-average sea temperatures, such as during an El Niño period," Dr. Martin Haulena, the Marine Science Center's head veterinarian, said in the article.

It's likely that the turtle struggled when it felt the colder water, but as it contracted hypothermia, everything slowed down: heart and respiration rates. The turtle would have become weaker and weaker, said Haulena in the article.

At the aquarium, the turtle is being warmed up slowly and its wounds are being treated.

Last week, the aquarium took in another stranded animal, a rare fur seal from Mexico. Its condition has not improved greatly since then. 

For more great nature science stories and general news, please visit our sister site, Headlines and Global News (HNGN).

-Follow Catherine on Twitter @TreesWhales


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