In the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Libya, there’s an area local fishermen call “Turtle Island.” It’s real enough, but you’d be foolish to try to sail there. The island is never in precisely the same place, and it changes size from one minute to the next. In fact, you never know when its gleaming shore might disappear altogether, because it’s made up entirely of the half-exposed shells of basking loggerhead sea turtles.
The funny thing is, sea turtles, unlike the Mediterranean’s human denizens, aren’t supposed to like to float, says Sandra Hochscheid, a marine biologist at Stazione Zoologica Anton Dohrn in Naples, Italy. Scientists believe that loggerhead sea turtles (Caretta caretta), the dominant sea turtle in the Mediterranean, spend most of their lives underwater or on the sea floor, coming to the surface only for brief gasps of air. “Everything we’d found out about turtles: feeding, mating, migrating, searching for good places, resting … has all taken place underwater,” she says.
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