Chapter 2: Why Did She Strand?
Chapter 2: Why Sea Turtles Strand
Munchkin was admitted with significant wounds along her right front flipper. She is missing portions of her right front flipper and left hind flipper, possibly from an entanglement. No one knows exactly why Munchkin stranded, but sea turtles strand when they are sick or injured. Strandings can be associated with changes in environmental condition. As cold-blooded reptiles, they depend on the temperature of their surroundings to maintain their body temperature. Sea turtles can normally control their body temperatures by moving between areas of water with different temperatures or basking in the sun at the water’s surface or on the beach. However, when temperatures rapidly decline and sea turtles are cut off from warmer waters, they can suffer from a form of hypothermia we call cold-stunning.
The cold-stun phenomenon happens every fall when the water temperatures in Cape Cod Bay cool. Turtles that fail to migrate south get stuck, become sick and hypothermic, and wash up on Cape Cod beaches.
The ocean, and sea turtles like Munchkin, are facing accelerating threats like rapidly rising water temperatures from climate change, islands of floating plastic, and ocean industrialization. These pressing issues inspire all of us to educate and take action to influence global change.