If you click on yesterday's photo and enlarge it, you will see something on the neck of the turtle. Is it a growth from a disease, or baby hatchling turtles riding on their mother's back, or a piece of kelp?
To answer the mystery, I am showing another one of the several other photos of the same turtle that I showed yesterday, taken just moments before yesterday's photo was taken. The mysterious object is missing.
I also consulted with my niece, who is a marine biologist now getting her Ph.D. at the University of California at Santa Barbara. She spent a year on a Watson Foundation Fellowship studying sea turtles in Cayman, South Africa, Australia and Panama. (It helps to have a marine biologist in the family.) Her analysis is below:
"I thought it was most likely a piece of kelp and the bulbous piece of kelp, and the bulbous objects are the pneumatocysts (floats) of the kelp. Upon looking closer, I agree it does look uncannily like she's carrying the hatchlings, but I think it is highly unlikely since the mother may not even be in the area when her hatchlings leave the nest. Hawksbills nests 3-5x per season (Witzell 1983) at about two week intervals and eggs incubate for 55-60 days.
At most, a mother might be in the area for the first nest to hatch, but I have never heard of mothers carrying hatchlings (despite Finding Nemo's representation of Crush). In addition, though it's possible the brown color on the neck is a weird disease, I know of no reported disease with those symptoms, and therefore I think it's a kelp blade.
WITZELL, W. N. 1983.
Synopsis of biological data on the hawksbill turtle Eretmochelys imbricata (Linnaeus, 1766). FAO Fisheries Synopsis
No. 137, Rome."
One of the comments yesterday said it was an Olive Ridley rather than a hawksbill turtle. My niece, the marine biologist has agreed, and asked me to relay the following correction:
">"I totally agree with one of your responders that it does look like an Olive Ridley. I thought the picture was from your solar eclipse cruise, so I was in the hawksbill mindset looking at that pointy beak, and never considered the Ridleys as I've never seen them before. This pic http://animals.
staticfiles/NGS/Shared/ and others clearly show the beak in the photo. As such, my evidence regarding the nesting frequency needs to be modified. According to NOAA Fisheries http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/ StaticFiles/animals/images/ 800/olive-ridley-sea-turtle. jpg species/turtles/oliveridley., olive ridleys nest 1-2x per season either singly or during an arribada. If they also lay nests 2 weeks apart (as I recollect most of the other species seem to do), it is now virtually impossible that a female would be around for her own hatchlings, and I can't imagine how carrying hatchlings from other females around could be evolutionarily adaptive." htm