Numbers on Turtles? What’s up with that??

Kihei Beach with Sea Turtle

I’ve worked with sea turtle conservation for a number of years and I knew that flipper tags (kinda like sea turtle ear-rings but for flippers) were a standard way to mark turtles for later identification. These tags help scientists track where turtles stay and migrate to, how old they grow, how fast they grow and more.  I was surprised during an early morning walk along the beach in Kihei earlier this year when I saw a painted number on the shell of a female green sea turtle that was making her back back to the sea. This was not something I’d come across before.

A snippet from fall 2017 the Hawaiian Hawksbill Turtle newsletter had  a clue:

Some of the male and female Hawaiian green sea turtles that nested and basked all the way up in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands (Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument) this past season can be identified by the temporary white letters/numbers the NOAA researchers painted on their carapaces.  Their flipper tags are often more difficult to read, so these numbers truly help us understand their migratory patterns.”

I just sent in the observation to RespectWildlife@noaa.gov and will update this post if I get any information back. You can also call in sightings to the statewide marine wildlife stranding number here:  +1(888)256-9840

Green Sea Turtle with Number

Hey, did you “just” see a turtle? Even without numbers, turtle sightings can be helpful. If you’d like to add your observations to a global community science project, check out http://inaturalist.org.  BUT do remember… Sea turtles are threatened/endangered species.  Any effort to take a photograph should be respectful and not alter their natural behavior.

Here are some recent observations:

Ghost Crabs on Hawaiian Beaches

You may not have seen these crabs in person, but if you walk the beach in the morning, you’ve certainly seen their handiwork. Ghost crabs live in the intertidal zone and after the high tide recedes, they must clear their burrow of the sand the waves washed in. While there are a number of species worldwide, in Hawaii the question is which of the two species is it?

pallid and horned ghost crab burrows on maui

The pallid ghost crab,” Ocypode pallidula,  is active day and night and produces a fan shaped formation of sand as it excavates its burrow.  The horned ghost crab,  Ocypode ceratophthalma, is active at night and forms a small, cone-shaped heap as it excavates its burrow.  The latter grows to a larger size and at least for adults, larger burrows, with openings larger than 3″ across, are likely to belong to a horned ghost crab.

City Nature Challenge 2018

We are excited to be hosting the 2018 City Nature Challenge for the very first time in Hawaii. Our “city” is the entire island of Maui and we are encouraging folks to learn how to use the iNaturalist platform (mobile app and website) to record natural history observations on the island. We’ll use iNaturalist to record as many observations of biodiversity here on the island during the CNC competition – April 27,28,29, and 30 this year. For details about the events, visit our meetup page at https://www.meetup.com/Maui-Nui-Natural-History.