More from Myrtle the Turtle

MRB: And the behavior is tied to the fact they would migrate a lot when they would breed.

SFC: Yes. They would not have access to food during this migration, which is thousands of miles, and they wouldn’t eat very much during the actual mating process. They don’t go find one mate, do the dirty deed, lay the egg, and leave. They may have several mates over the course of the season, then they hang out in this breeding ground for weeks and lay more than one nest. They mate with more than one partner, and then who knows what physiological or environmental cue says, “Okay, go back to your feeding ground and eat.”

And the interesting thing about sea turtles is that there could be tons of algae or grass right there at the mating ground, but they will travel thousands of miles to go back to the feeding ground, which is amazing. And no matter where they decided where their feeding ground is, so to speak, when it’s time to breed, they go back to the same nest area that they were hatched out of. That’s fascinating to me. I mean, why don’t you just find a great feeding ground and just mate there? There’s all sorts of things that can happen to them, all sorts of risk that they take to travel these miles to go from one ground to another every two years. It something we don’t understand.

MRB: Can you walk me through Myrtle’s daily routine?

SFC: The other turtles are fed every other day, once a day, which is fine with them. Myrtle is a grazer: she would just be grazing and picking at algae and grass all day, so what we try to do is break her food down into several small meals, usually five or six feedings a day. We try to coordinate it with the shark feedings, so that she’s not all over us when we’re feeding the sharks. There’s shark feedings in the morning and in the afternoon, so there’s always going to be a Myrtle feeding then. With the sharks, she’s got to be out of the way. But basically, that’s her routine. She does get a back rub at 1:15 p.m., and that’s with a brush to keep off bacteria or anything forming on her shell.

With all of our animals, but especially with someone like Myrtle, there’s a lot of care. The veterinarians come in for biannual exams, where all the turtles come out of the water and they get a close look. Everything from ultrasound to blood drawn for tests; her eyes are looked at, her mouth. And the vet said that it would be good idea to give her a good back rub everyday with a brush, so she gets a back rub everyday. And then she gets lots of other treats in terms of us just scratching her back or rubbing her head…you know, just sort of playing with her.