Nova Scotia

'Turtlecam' teaches N.S. scientists how to help leatherbacks

A team of Nova Scotian scientists, engineers, commercial fishermen, and other volunteers has captured some amazing footage of life onboard a leatherback turtle.

Ancient creatures shared earth with dinosaurs, but now are endangered

A team of Nova Scotian scientists, engineers, commercial fishermen, and other volunteers has captured some amazing footage of life onboard a leatherback turtle.

The turtle-cam footage released this week was taken using a camera attached to the shell of a leatherback off the coast of Nova Scotia.  

The camera was developed by Dr. Mike James, a local sea turtle biologist with Fisheries and Oceans Canada. 

They turned down very few jellyfish.- Dr. Mike James

"The minute you see a leatherback, whether it's on a beach or in the water, it just captivates you," James says.

The cameras were attached to 24 turtles between 2008 and 2013 off the coast of Nova Scotia.

They were attached with suction cups while the turtles was still moving so as to not disturb their daily foraging activities.

Leatherbacks have a reputation for eating jellyfish and after sifting through hours of tape, James can agree it is one of their favourite food sources.

"They turned down very few jellyfish and ate them in their entirety," James says.  

Ancient creatures now endangered

A research paper James co-authored with the data is now helping bring a clearer understanding of how these ancient reptiles spend their time at sea.

Leatherbacks can grow to more than two metres in length, and weigh almost 1,000 kilograms. They have been swimming the world's oceans since the time of the dinosaurs, but are now endangered species.

James says this new research will help better protect the turtles, not only off Nova Scotia shores, but worldwide.

"Our population is valuable because right now it appears to be fairly stable and it gives us a lot of opportunity to study the animals and apply what we learn here else were," James says.     

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