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Turtle nail clippings: discoveries from Ningaloo Reef

By Jasmine, 21 August 2020 News

Photo of a turtle with an aerial on it's back, swimming in blue water.

CSIRO scientists are monitoring turtles on Ningaloo Reef, Western Australia.
Image: Dr. Richard Pillans

By Natalie Kikken

Did you know that nails grow on a turtle’s flippers? At Ningaloo Reef, Western Australia, turtle nail clippings are providing new and exciting insights. CSIRO scientists can work out what turtles eat by analysing the chemicals in these nail samples.

So what did we find? We found out that what turtles eat depends on how big they are (and also how old they are).

The diet of young turtles on the reef is dominated by seagrass. But as turtles increase in size and move into lagoons and reefs, they feed on seaweed and jellyfish!

Ningaloo Outlook

This research is part of Ningaloo Outlook, a collaboration with BHP that began in 2015. The partnership will continue for another five years until 2025, to increase our knowledge of Ningaloo Reef.

Find out more about Ningaloo Outlook on the CSIRO blog.

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