Protecting Sea Turtles Has Gone to the Dogs

Sep 27, 2023

Thought Question: If you were to come up with a creative way to help protect animals and their homes in nature, what would you do and why?

In the Disney/Pixar film Finding Dory, a laid-back sea turtle named Crush helps Dory, a blue tang fish, find her family. Perhaps it’s only fitting, then, that a scruffy terrier named Dory is helping return the favor. Dory (the dog) patrols Florida’s coast. She sniffs out turtle nests so scientists can protect them.

Publishing their findings in the journal PLOS ONE, a team of researchers (funded, in part, by Disney) adopted a stray dog found along a highway in Florida. They named her Dory. They trained her to find sea turtle nests. This is a vital, but often lengthy and difficult, part of saving the endangered animals.

Conservation efforts focused on endangered species often require the detection of animals with elusive and cryptic behaviors at different life stages,” researchers wrote.  They also stated that locating sea turtle eggs is hard.

Why? Sea turtles lay their eggs at night. Each species buries their eggs in the sand at different depths, too. Evidence of their digging can be washed away by the tide. It can also be blown smooth by the wind. This leaves few visual clues present for humans. Therefore, a new detection tool was needed, the scientists argued. That’s where Dory’s nose came in.

Dory is trained to sniff out the scent of cloacal mucus. That’s the slime female turtles leave on eggs after laying them. Dory was able to find 560 nests along 5 miles of a beach. Humans found only 256 in the same amount of time.

Researches noted that Dory performed far better than human seekers. They believe Dory's success shows the potential of using detection dogs to help locate sea turtle eggs for conservation.

As Crush would say, “Righteous, dude."

Photo from Unsplash courtesy of David Reynolds.

What statement best captures the main idea of the story? (Common Core RI.5.2; RI.6.2)
a. Dory is a famous character from Disney who loves sea turtles.
b. Dory, a stray dog, protects sea turtles from predators on the Florida coast.
c. Scientists adopted Dory, a stray terrier, to find and protect sea turtle nests.
d. Dory, the famous fish, has adventures in the ocean with her friend, Crush.
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