Flippers Not Fingers

Flippers Not Fingers

Flippers, not fingers: Sea turtles’ surprising feeding strategies.

Imagine you’re trying to eat a snack—a tasty sustainable fish taco, let’s say. But there’s no plate, no cutlery, and you can’t use your hands. Also, gravity is muted, so the taco has a frustrating tendency to float away between bites.

If this sounds difficult, you’re beginning to understand the challenge of being a hungry sea turtle, stuck with awkward flippers more useful for moving around than for grasping prey.

Still, sea turtles make do with what they have. And, as it turns out, they can (and do) use their forelimbs to corral, swipe and hold food.

Their behavior is the subject of a new publication by Monterey Bay Aquarium researchers Jessica Fujii and Dr. Kyle Van Houtan. It’s something that’s been noted in passing in scientific literature, but Jessica and Kyle say it’s a fascinating glimpse into the evolution of ocean creatures.

To illustrate, Jessica points to a photo of a green turtle taken in open water in the Gulf of Thailand. Between its flippers, it’s holding a tasty meal: not a fish taco, but a spherical jellyfish nearly the size of the turtle itself. Read more here.