Hundreds of sea turtles in the Gulf of Mexico have slipped into unresponsive states in recent days as a “bomb cyclone” sends frigid temperatures throughout eastern US, according to USA Today.
The turtles have been spotted stiff and motionless on local beaches in Florida, USA Today reports, and volunteers and employees for The Gulf World Marine Institute have rescued about 200 of them. The turtles are being rehabilitated with fluids, warm temperature, and muscle therapy, and are expected to recover.
Turtles are cold-blooded, so their bodies assume surrounding temperatures.
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The sudden drop in water temperature caused by the bomb cyclone has left many turtles “cold-shocked,” which is when their bodies can no longer cope with the cold and begin to shut down, according to experts who spoke with USA Today.
This condition normally afflicts younger turtles who linger in shallow waters that get especially cold, the experts said. Older turtles, on the other hand, are strong enough to swim out to deeper waters where it’s warmer and temperature fluctuations are not as sharp.
Normally, turtles are able to survive this state and simply thaw out when the water warms, but since the condition induces immobility, they can easily get hit by passing boats.
The team rescuing the turtles expects to find many more if the cold weather persists, they told USA Today.
Turtles aren’t the only animals being affected by the unusually cold temperatures across parts of the US.
Thresher sharks are washing up on the shores of Cape Cod Bay because of an erratic migration sparked by the plunge in temperatures. Iguanas in Florida are freezing and falling off trees. Manatees, meanwhile, struggle in temperatures below 68 degrees Fahrenheit and are crowding near power plants to stay warm, where they are at risk of being injured by boats.
Above all, these unusual situations are a reminder that most animals have a hard time adapting to extreme conditions.
As climate change increases the frequency of extreme weather events and alters baseline climates around the world, animals are struggling to adapt, according to a study published in 2017 that argues that the world has entered the sixth mass extinction of all time.
The study found that, in recent decades, billions of regional animals populations have been lost and that 50% of all individual animals have died during this period.
Reversing this environmental decline is part of the UN’s Global Goals, which Global Citizen campaigns on. You can take action on this issue here.
More often than not, it’s warmer temperatures that cause problems for animals. But for the turtles currently freezing in the Gulf of Mexico, some warmer weather would probably be nice right now.