Page last updated at 08:51 GMT, Wednesday, 10 February 2010

How tiny turtle hatchlings make their first steps

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Scientists have uncovered how hatchling loggerhead turtles make their first steps across sand as they travel from their nests towards the sea.

This journey is treacherous: with every step, the tiny creatures face attack, and the unstable surface is notoriously difficult to walk on - especially for an animal with limbs that are adapted for a life at sea.

Now, after studying slow-motion footage, a team of researchers was surprised to find that the turtles do not "swim" through the sand.

Instead, with each step, a solidified block of sand forms behind their paddle-like flippers, allowing them to generate enough force to push forward towards the sea.

The research is published in the Royal Society journal Biology Letters, and was carried out by Nicole Mazouchova, Nick Gravish, Andrei Savu and Daniel Goldman from the Georgia Institute of Technology, US.

Footage courtesy of Nicole Mazouchova

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