Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS
SAF Archives  search ask the scientists in the classroom cool science
scientists from previous shows
cool careers in science
ask the scientists

Photo of Flegra Bentivegna Flegra Bentivegna as seen on Mediterranean On the Rocks: Turtle Hospital

Click on Flegra's photo to read a brief bio.

q What's the future for turtles in the Mediterranean - do you think they will survive? (Question sent by many viewers)

A In my opinion it is very difficult to save Mediterranean sea turtles. Today they are too endangered by human activities. It would be very difficult to eliminate fishing, maritime traffic and pollution from a developing society that always looks for new welfare and economic income. However, we have to fight for a sustainable development that will protect nature and give to the future generations the possibility of enjoying sea turtles and other many species.

q When you release the rescued turtles, do you tag them so you keep track of them and how they are doing? (Question sent by several viewers)

A All the released sea turtles have a small plastic plate on the front flipper. The address and the telephone number of our "hospital" are written on the plate. Sometimes we have heard that one of our marked sea turtles arrived in Tunisia or came back to our waters after one year. Recently, we were advised that one of the sea turtles we released into the Gulf of Naples was caught in a net in Turkey (Bodrum) four months later. For some years now we have been monitoring sea turtles using a satellite transmitter. These experiments are pointing out that sea turtles can travel for thousands of kilometers and move from the eastern to the western part of the Mediterranean and vice versa according to the season.

q If the beaches around the Mediterranean are so crowded, how can the turtles make their nests? Are some beaches protected, as in the USA? (Question sent by several viewers)

A Beaches of the Mediterranean Sea are really crowded today. Sea turtles still succeed in nesting in some areas. The most important nesting areas of Caretta caretta are located in Greece, in particular in Zakynthos, in the Peloponnesus and in the Crete Isle, while Chelonia mydas nests in Cyprus and Turkey. Except for Zakynthos, where now there is a legal protection (a Presidential Decree established the National Marine Park of Zakynthos last year), other nesting beaches are watched over and protected by environmental associations. They prevent people and cars going on the beaches, limiting buildings and lights. Nests are protected putting cages on them, too.

q What do turtles eat? Are their food sources plentiful? Does the caulerpa taxifola threaten their food supply? (Questions asked by many viewers)

A The loggerhead sea turtle, Caretta caretta, eats everything: fish, crustaceans, squids. The green turtle, Chelonia mydas, is an herbivore and eats just algae and phanerogams. Dermochelys coriacea eats just medusae or other gelatinous animals. Caulerpa doesn't seem to be a problem for sea turtles as well as for many other different animals that eat it.

q Approximately how many sea turtles you rescue and treat in a year? (Question sent by Mark Edmunds)

A Approximtely thirty animals are found and treated every year.


Scientific American Frontiers
Fall 1990 to Spring 2000
Sponsored by GTE Corporation,
now a part of Verizon Communications Inc.