4 min read

Sea Turtles Wear Little Swimsuits For An Important Cause

Why is this little loggerhead sea turtle sporting a tiny one-piece? So he can poop in it, that's why.

Hatchling

In hopes of better understanding the feeding habits of one of world's most endangered marine species, researcher Owen Coffee from the University of Queensland, in Australia, recently set out to find clues in the animals' fecal matter. But while the concept might sound simple enough, getting his hands on sea turtle scat proved no easy task.

Carla and Owen with a loggerhead

After enlisting the help of six wild loggerhead sea turtles of varying sizes in an oceanside research station, Owen and his team tried to figure out the best way to capture fecal samples before they dissipated in the water. It took a bit of trial and error using other, less fashionable methods, but they eventually devised a perfect solution: Use special diapers, or "nappies," held in position with custom-designed swimsuits made from beachwear meant for humans.

"The sleeves were removed, slits placed up the sides and the bottom sewn together in two places, leaving space for the turtle's tail and the detachable fecal collector," writes the University of Queensland in a release.

Turtle swimsuit harness

Sure enough, the most stylish poop gathering technique also proved the most effective.

"After a few modifications, including Velcro-attachments for the 'nappy', we hoped we had the perfect solution to our unusual problem," sea turtle researcher Kathy Townsend said in a statement. "To our great surprise, it worked perfectly. The suits were easy to put on, comfortable for the sea turtles to wear, looked great, and Owen was able to collect the entire fecal sample."

nappie

Fortunately, it wasn't long before the sea turtles were allowed to go back to being au naturel. Having done their duty defecating for science, the turtles were then unsuited and sent back on their way, wild and free.

With any luck, the information gleaned from their poop will allow scientists to have a better idea of where the species likes to go to forage, so those areas can be better protected for their kind.

Moreton Bay