In Lewis Carroll’s famous fantasy tale, “Alice in Wonderland” the sorrowful Mock Turtle, while telling Alice his history, makes this well-known statement, “We called him Tortoise because he taught us”. He was speaking about the Master at his school in the sea who was an old Turtle. Among the lessons that Mock Turtle received were “mystery, ancient and modern, with Seaography.”
Now, as in Lewis Carroll’s tale, the old masters of the sea have a few things to teach us. And although Alice had a difficult time understanding the characters of Wonderland, we are able to make sense of what the turtles are telling us.
Scientists have long recognized sea turtles’ sensitivity to weather changes at nesting sites. On beaches where turtles nest, rising sea levels and violent weather can affect nesting areas and impede success.
Significantly, however, is that a sea turtle’s gender is determined by nest temperature during development. Turtles therefore are seen as good environmental indicators that can reveal the effects of climate change on the natural world. For this reason many turtle management programs are incorporating temperature measurements into their monitoring. This is the case with Nature Seychelles’ monitoring program on Cousin Island, thought to be the longest running program of its kind for hawksbill turtles.
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