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Don Lewis, Massachusetts Audubon Society,
Fox Island Wildlife Management Area

Another Hybrid Sea Turtle Strands on Cape Cod
— 10 November 2003

The call came from a turtle patrol volunteer midday on Monday as he walked the beach off Robbins Hill in west Brewster.  He spotted a sea turtle tossed on the shore by the midday high tide, but he couldn't make out the type.

Well, no wonder he couldn’t make out the type.  Even the turtle experts are still puzzling.  The shape said “hawksbill.”  The imbricated carapace said “hawksbill.”  But the head said, “Er ... well, maybe hawksbill, but with a touch of green, too.”  For instance, it had a single pair of prefrontal scutes — like a green sea turtle — rather than the expected two pair.

No matter her lineage — and we’re calling this turtle a probable hawksbill-green hybrid until we receive verifying genetic data — we needed to get her to the New England Aquarium forthwith to be treated by their medical staff.  Feisty for a cold-stunned critter, we placed her inside a towel-lined box and strapped her into the passenger seat of my roadster, then zipped the 45 miles to the Sagamore Bridge where a New England Aquarium volunteer rendezvoused to bring her the final leg to Boston.  This turtle measured about 12 inches long and weighed 6.2 pounds.  As you can see from the photograph of her plastron, this turtle was heavily encrusted with barnacles, one of which was on the bottom of its back left flipper.  There was surprisingly almost no algae on carapace or plastron.

You may recall that last year we recovered a total of three hybrid sea turtles (see Third Hybrid Sea Turtle Rescued — 9 December 2002 for comparison), the first time we have ever observed this phenomenon.  None of those three had the obviously imbricated scutal pattern of this one.