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Massive turtle washes ashore on Fishers Island

By Joe Wojtas

Publication: theday.com

Published August 04. 2013 7:00PM   Updated August 05. 2013 9:11PM
Photo submitted
An unidentified woman crouches near the body of a massive turtle that washed ashore Friday on Isabella Beach, Fisher's Island. The photo was originally posted on the news site Reddit.

Fishers Island, N.Y. — The decomposing corpse of a massive leatherback turtle washed ashore on Isabella Beach on Friday and was discovered by volunteers who are part of the Mystic Aquarium's stranding rescue team.

The discovery of the turtle prompted more than 300 comments on the website Reddit where a photo of the turtle was posted.

Janelle Schuh, the aquarium's stranding coordinator, said this afternoon that rescue team first responders reported the discovery to the aquarium and then documented the condition of the turtle with measurements and other observations. Schuh said the turtle appeared to be four to five feet long and weighed several hundred pounds.

While the aquarium sometimes performs necropsies of dead marine animals such as seals, whales and turtles to determine what caused their death, in this case she said the turtle was decomposing and the equipment needed to move it and bury it was not available. It will be left on the beach.

While leatherbacks are found most of the year in southern waters, Schuh said they can be found as far north as Maine during the summer. She added that leatherbacks are different than other turtles in that they are able to maintain a high body temperature.

"From July to October we see turtles up this way," she said.

The deep-diving, fast-swimming leatherbacks can weigh as much as 1,500 pounds. The largest one on record weighed in excess of one ton.

Female leatherbacks are known for coming ashore at night in various places around the would including an area from South Carolina to South America, using their huge flippers to dig a nest in the sand where they lay their eggs. The hatchlings later crawl into the water.

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