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Thursday, 28 February, 2002, 12:14 GMT
Rare turtle killed by cold
Green turtle
The green turtle is becoming increasingly rare
A rare green turtle found dead off the coast of Scotland was killed by hypothermia, say post mortem results.

The turtle was 60cm long and was discovered in the sea off Loch Inver on the north-west coast.

It is believed to be only the third recorded discovery of a green turtle in Scottish waters in more than 150 years.

The animal normally lives in tropical and sub-tropical waters and scientists say it probably perished in the cold after losing its way.

It had not been feeding at all, and as a result of not feeding there were bleeding ulcers in the stomach

Tony Patterson
veterinary pathologist
Green turtles can grow up to more than a metre, so scientists believe that the dead creature may have been relatively young.

A post mortem examination was carried out at the Marine Conservation Society's laboratory in Inverness to determine the exact cause of death.

Veterinary pathologist Tony Patterson, who carried out the examination, said: "The primary thing would be death from hypothermia.

"It had a lot of body fat but the temperature of the water would have meant that its metabolism would have slowed down so much that it would not have been able to utilise that."

Further investigation

He said that many of the turtles found in UK waters were juveniles who were "well off the beaten track."

Mr Patterson said that the turtle was likely to have a ready supply of plant and animal material from which to feed, but was so exhausted by the cold it could not eat properly.

Turtle shells
The number of rare green turtles has fallen in recent years
He added: "It had not been feeding at all, and as a result of not feeding there were bleeding ulcers in the stomach."

Scientists now hope that DNA tests on the turtle may eventually enable them to work out where it came from.

Once their investigations are complete, the remains will be sent to the Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh.

Marine scientist, Bob Reid, said: "They are normally found in tropical and sub-tropical waters. This creature obviously got lost, by quite a bit.

"It happens very occasionally and is very rare. It is unusual one should end up in Scotland."

The number of rare turtles has been falling in recent years due to hunting for their meat and eggs, which are regarded as a delicacy in some countries.

See also:

20 Jul 00 | Africa
Saving the giant sea turtle
10 Aug 00 | Sci/Tech
Vanishing reptiles prompt concern
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