Sea turtles are wearing teeny swimsuits for one smelly reason


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Sometimes the answer is in the poo, and given the typical watery environment of the sea turtle, those suckers can be hard to collect. The answer to the problem? Turtle swimsuits, naturally.

Sea turtles are wearing teeny swimsuits for one smelly reason

Researchers at the University of Queensland, Australia are in the midst of a three-year project to try to identify and better protect the areas where endangered turtles feed, and they're looking at some unusual solutions.

University of Queensland PhD student Owen Coffee, who is working on the project, told Mashable Australia he has turned to sewing little outfits — that look somewhat similar to the notorious green lycra mankini donned by the Sacha Baron Cohen character, Borat — to assist in the collection of turtle poo.

Coffee is trying to determine where the endangered turtles — such as the loggerhead and green turtle — are feeding. By finding out the habitats where the turtles feed before they go on to produce the most hatchlings, the researchers will know the most important turtle habitats to protect.

For part of this research, Coffee is using gut content analysis. Although he can take a sample from the beginning of the digestive tract of the green turtle, which has a mainly plant-based diet, it's the carnivorous loggerheads waste that needs to be examined.

To catch the droppings, the team built a funnel that could be anchored on the shell of the turtle to collect the samples, Coffee explained, but this wasn't enough. "The issue I was having was [the funnels] were being flicked off by the turtles, which are quite large and strong," he said. And this is where the swimsuit comes in.

These types of sea turtles can reach 120 kilograms (264.56 pounds) at their reproductive size, and at about 20 to 30 years old, are often more than 90 centimetres (35.43 inches) from the bottom to the top of the shell. In other words, they have the power.

Well, that was the case until Coffee sewed them bright-coloured bathers out of the remnants of stretchy, second-hand sun shirts to hold the poo-catching funnel in place.

"After a few modifications, including Velcro-attachments for the ‘nappy’, we hoped we had the perfect solution to our unusual problem," Kathy Townsend, who works at the University of Queensland's Moreton Bay Research Station, said in a statement. "The suits were easy to put on, comfortable for the sea turtles to wear, looked great, and Owen was able to collect the entire faecal sample."

Coffee said the turtles were not bothered by the swimsuits. He's outfitted two so far, but has permission from the university to collect samples from 20 turtles.

Once enough material is collected, the creatures are relieved of their fancy apparel and returned to the wild, naked and free.

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