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Mass Sea Turtle Die-offs Likely Caused by Pollution

By Lacy Schley
Jun 11, 2019 5:00 PMDec 13, 2019 5:55 PM
Sea Turtle - Shutterstock
(Credit: Worlds Wildlife Wonders/Shutterstock)


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In the past decade, alarming mass die-offs have hit sea turtle populations in the Great Barrier Reef, specifically the endangered green turtle species — and no one could figure out why. A recent paper in Science of the Total Environment proposes a potential answer. Researchers studied green turtles from three regions — two coastal sites likely to be impacted by human activity and a more pristine offshore site — from 2014 to 2017. They found that metal contaminants, namely cobalt, were present in populations with unusually high numbers of sick turtles. Though they’re unsure of the pollutants’ source, the group speculates human activity is likely a culprit. The group hopes the findings can help inform future conservation efforts aimed toward green turtle populations.

[This story originally appeared in print as "Won't Somebody Please Think of the Turtles?"]

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