SYDNEY, May 14 (Xinhua) -- As if life for a baby turtle was not hard enough, an Australian study has found that man-made structures such as jetties and wharfs make ideal hiding places for predators to pounce on newborn hatchlings as they enter the water.
Researchers from the University of Western Australia and the Australian Institute of Marine Science showed that turtle hatchlings which enter the water close to a jetty are seven times more likely to be eaten.
"Jetties attract large numbers of predatory fish, such as mangrove jack," lead author Phillipa Wilson said.
"They provide an artificial shelter for the fish, and when located near turtle nesting beaches can greatly increase the threat to hatchlings."
Using pioneering technology, the team attached tiny tracking devices to flatback turtle hatchlings on Thevenard Island off Australia's northwest coast.
Normally when they hatch turtle babies swim directly out from the beach to the relative safety of the open ocean, however Wilson's team noticed many of those they were tracking behaved differently by swimming parallel to the beach and taking shelter under the jetty during the day.
"This is when we realised we were no longer tracking swimming hatchlings, but tagged hatchlings inside the stomach of the fish that ate them," Wilson said.
Scott Whiting from the Western Australian Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions said that the research provides a clear picture for the need to reassess infrastructure which exists on or nearby to turtle nesting beaches.
"As coastal development is one of the primary threats to marine turtles around the world, understanding the effects of jetties will be extremely useful to managers when advising on environmental impacts associated with these structures," Whiting said.