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No. 52, 28th October 2012


1. Queensland state, Australia: Fitzroy river turtles are ‘bum breathers'

SOURCE: New scientist online science news; - DATE: 19th August 2000

Adapted by

Bao Dat Viet news online; - DATE: 16th October 2012

Turtles are the most ancient surviving lineage of land vertebrates. They are also one of the most distinctive life forms on the planet. In general they are very fascinating creatures. One interesting fact hitting the news recently is that some species can literally breathe through their butts (cloaca). The cloaca of some species of freshwater turtles have finger like extensions that are abundantly supplied with blood vessels. The muscular walls of the cloaca contract and relax forcing water in and out of the chamber. If a turtle hibernates in a pond where some dissolved oxygen is available, the cloaca will serve as a respiratory device. As a substitute “lung,” the cloaca allows for the transfer of oxygen and carbon dioxide between animal and the surrounding water.
Only certain turtles have this ability, but those that do carry on oxygen-fueled metabolism under low-oxygen conditions. The world champion is an Australian river turtle (Rheodytes leukops) that lives in shallow rapids where the water is highly oxygenated. It breathes through its rear end almost all the time at rates of 15 to 60 times per minute (Legler and Cann, 1980). It's a “bum breather,” as the Aussies say.

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2. USA: Testing a cheaper way to track the endangered loggerhead sea turtle

SOURCE: The Student Publication of the Graduate Program in Scientific Writing at MIT; - DATE: 23rd October 2012

A double-barrelled method that combines blood sampling and satellite tracking offers promising help for the endangered loggerhead sea turtle. By tracking the turtles' movements using blood testing and attaching satellite boxes to their shells, scientists hope to identify conservation “hotspots” where the turtles can best be protected. This month a team in Florida published the most recent study to confirm the strength of the double-tracking approach, which they used to study seventy-one female loggerhead sea turtles on the east coast of Florida.
Satellite tracking comes at a cost—up to $5,000 (~104.125.000VND) per turtle, to be exact. That expense means scientists can typically only afford to study individuals rather than full populations, which can give a misleading picture about a species' ecology. In order to make the wisest conservation recommendations, scientists needed a cheaper way to look at the migration of large numbers of sea turtles. Enter blood sampling and isotope analysis, which at about $30 a sample, costs a fraction of satellite tracking. Red blood cells contain isotopes (different versions of chemical elements) that reflect environmental conditions where they formed. Isotope values of nitrogen, carbon, and sulphur change at a predictable rate based on factors like a turtle's diet or the latitude and salinity where it foraged. Using an instrument called a mass spectrometer; scientists can read the isotopic values of blood samples and estimate where a turtle travelled.

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3. Warsaw city, Poland: World's oldest turtle shells, which stand test of time, could play an important role in finding reptile's origin

SOURCE: - DATE: 24th October 2012

Plucked from a pit of grey clay next to a rubbish dump in southern Poland, fossilised turtle shells resembling the battle-scarred shields of ancient warriors are the world's oldest and most complete. Dating back 215 million years, experts say they could provide invaluable clues in solving the riddle of the origin of these ancient reptile, venerated by cultures across the globe. Though fossils carry no organic material for DNA testing, their structures hold precious clues to the origins of species.
“Each new turtle fossil is invaluable as it could provide clues to their origin, which up to now has been a bit of a mystery,” said Tomasz Sulej, a palaeobiologist with the Polish Academy of Sciences (PAN) who made the discovery in a region known as the Polish Jurassic Highland.
These most ancient of creatures are thought to have evolved from Procolophons, a type of parareptile living in the Permian period up to 300 million years ago. The Odontochelys semitestace, a 2008 find in China dating back 220 million years has also been classed by experts as a turtle ancestor, which like them had a belly shell, but unlike them had teeth and no full top shell.

These ancient creatures carry deep meaning as primordial symbols of longevity, stability, security and wisdom and feature in creation myths from India to native North America. Yet their future seems bleak as they are extensively hunted for meat, traditional medicine or caught for the illegal pet trade.

Link 1 to this web article online (English)

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4. Jakarta city, Indonesia: Turtle conservation shows good results after four decades

SOURCE: The Jakarta Post; - DATE: 24th October 2012

After around four decades of turtle conservation in Indonesia, the work to save some of the endangered species has shown significant results with around 50% of the population in the 10 largest hatching sites in Indonesia being saved from various threats. The data, which includes information for four species, the green turtle (Chelonia mydas), hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata), leatherback turtle (Dermochelys coriacea) and olive ridley turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea), shows that 100% of the eggs could be protected from various threats, including theft, predators and nature.
In Sumatran nesting sites, the percentage of turtles saved was lower, less than 50%, because egg smuggling was still rampant, particularly in West Sumatra and Aceh. Meanwhile, in Java and Bali, the percentage of turtles saved reached 50% on average. The conservation efforts had shown significant results, which were expected to improve further because people had become more aware about conservation.
“Trade in turtle meat and eggs are still rampant. Besides, there is also an increasing demand for plastron [the ventral surface of the turtle's body] on the international market for medicinal purposes,” said Wawan Ridwan, director of the marine and fishery program at the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Indonesia. There are also threats from predators, unselective fishing — in which turtles are a bycatch, as well as the impact of climate change, for example eggs that failed to hatch because of coastal abrasion, he added.
According to World Wildlife Fund, the issue of by-catch had been overcome by modifying fishing gear. The number of turtles that could survive after they had been erroneously caught and were released back to the sea reached 98%.

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