The ability of sea turtle hatchlings to find the seashore soon after hatching is thought to be exclusively dependent upon visual information. Target-oriented movements in most vertebrates, however, relay on combining information gathered through different sensory systems. Hence, in this work, we investigated whether olfactory and/or magnetic information might complement visual cues during hatchling’s seaward crawling. Acute olfactory deprivation and distorted magnetic sensation in visually competent hatchlings resulted in a scattering of seaward crawling routes among cardinal points, some of them being different from those strongly preferred by control hatchlings. In addition, blindfolded hatchlings also displayed a striking misrouting while crawling on the beach surface in spite of having intact olfactory and magnetic senses. Together these results support the notion that visual information is crucial for seaward crawling, but also that olfactory and magnetic information complement visual cues when turtle hatchlings display this behavior. Hence, the present observations suggest that multisensory cues are used by turtle hatchlings while crawling towards the sea. This work also has important implications on the design of species conservation measures and policies. In the near future, efforts must be made to identify and preserve the local natural sources of odors and magnetic cues, in addition to preventing the perturbing effects of artificial lighting on adult and hatchling turtle crawling behavior.
Tuxbury, S.M. and Salmon, M. (2005) Competitive interactions between artificial lighting and natural cues during seafinding by hatchling marine turtles. Biological Conservation, 121, 311-316.
Fuentes-Farías, A.L., Urrutia-Fucugauchi, J., Gutiérrez-Ospina, G., Pérez-Cruz, L. and Gar?du?o-Monroy, V.H. (2008) Magnetic features of marine black turtle natal beaches and implications for nest selection. Geofísica Internacional, 47, 311-318.
Fuentes-Farías, A.L., Gardu?o-Monroy, V.H., Gutiérrez-Ospina, G., Pérez-Cruz, L., Meléndez-Herrera, E. and Urrutia-Fucugauchi, J. (2010) Reconnaissance study of marine turtle nesting beaches of Colola and Maruata, Michoacán Coast, southern México. Geofísica Internacional, 49, 201-212.