Tags Do Make Ordinary Tasks Harder for Marine Animals

Written by on November 7, 2013 in Marine Life, Sea Turtles

A couple of weeks ago, we shared a post about a new study regarding the effects of data-logging tags on marine animals by researchers from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) and Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi (TAMUCC). The researchers are studying dolphins in order to determine if tags cause the dolphins to expend more energy on ordinary activities.

Baby sea turtles with tags.

Baby sea turtles with tags. Photo credit: Kate Mansfield/NOAA.

The study is ongoing, but another similar study about tags suggests that, yes, they do disrupt natural behavior.

A team of American and Canadian researchers have determined just how much energy is wasted when aquatic animals are fitted with tags and other research instruments.

They studied fiberglass casts of sea turtles in a wind tunnel and found that most commercially available tags only increased drag by less than five percent for large adults. However, when used on juveniles and smaller animals, those same tags increase drag by more than 100 percent.

Increased drag can cause animals to swim slower, which could prevent them from catching food and escaping predators. It could also impact migrations and breeding behavior.

But it’s not just about the wellbeing of the animal. If tags disrupt natural behavior, that means researchers might not be getting the data they think they’re getting; it might not reflect what the animal’s natural life is really like.

Check out the following video to learn more about the wind tunnel experiment:

To learn more:

Putting a tag on an adult loggerhead.

Putting a tag on an adult loggerhead. Photo credit: NEFSC/NOAA.

Copyright © 2013 by Marine Science Today, a publication of Marine Science Today LLC.

About the Author

About the Author: Emily Tripp is the Publisher and Editor of MarineScienceToday.com. She holds marine science and biology degrees from the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and a Master of Advanced Studies degree in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. When she's not writing about marine science, she's probably running around outside or playing with her dog. .

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