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800-Pound Sea Turtle Found Dead, Likely from Entanglement

posted: 11/02/15
by: Discovery.com Staff
Leatherback sea turtle USVI
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Southeast Region via Wikimedia Commons

An 813-pound sea turtle found dead off of the coast of Massachusetts likely died from injuries related to entanglement with marine gear, necropsy results reveal.

Found floating a mile away from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, the six-foot-long animal's carcass was towed to the New England Aquarium, where veterinarians performed a necropsy on Sunday.

"The necropsy results showed abrasions and tissue tearing on the left front flipper and around the neck that are consistent with entanglement with marine gear," the aquarium said in a statement, also nothing that the animal "had a two foot section of marine rope in her mouth."

Related: Aquarium Rehabilitates Sea Turtle That Died Twice

On the same day, Center for Coastal Studies researchers successfully disentangled another sea turtle from a similar situation before the animal sustained major injuries. Such entanglement has become increasingly common in recent years.

"The leatherback's enormous 2- to 3-foot front flippers can come into unexpected contact with a fixed line that then spins the animal, which often results in a wrap of rope around the flipper or the head. Being a reptile and an air-breather, the leatherback must occasionally reach the water's surface to survive," aquarium officials explain.

"Unless discovered by boaters or blessed with enormous luck, these sea turtles eventually tire and drown."

Related: New Lousiana Law Could Save Thouasnds of Turtles

The leatherback sea turtle (Dermochelys coriacea) is the largest living turtle; it can grow up to seven feet long and weigh 2,000 pounds. Found throughout the world's oceans, the animal is differentiated from other sea turtles by its lack of a bony shell.

The IUCN currently lists the leatherback sea turtle as Vulnerable; it is also protected under Appendix I of the CITES treaty. Before the rise of turtle excluder devices in commercial fisheries, the turtle was a frequently caught as bycatch. When ingested, plastic debris and discarded marine gear in the ocean are extremely harmful to sea turtles.

Learn more about turtles:

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