As anyone who's ever seen film footage of newly hatched leatherback turtles can attest, it's hard to imaging the journey in store for these clumsy little creatures: as adults, they'll complete numerous roundtrip treks between West Africa and the east coast of South America--over 10,000 miles of swimming.
Studying 25 female leatherback turtles, biologists recently finished the first cross-Atlantic tracking of these animals. As this migration map shows, the researchers discovered that the turtles have three distinct migration routes; but each route begins and ends at Gabon, West Africa, the turtles' breeding ground of choice. Given that leatherback turtle populations have declined by 98% in the past 40 years (mostly due to being caught in fishing nets), this migration map is crucial in helping to save leatherback lives: thanks to this map, the scientists have already singled out 11 countries that can be invited to help conserve this endangered species.
Matthew J. Witt