Sea turtles in Australia are donning swimwear as part of conservation efforts.

Owen Coffee, a PhD student at Australia’s University of Queensland, made the swimsuits to help collect sea turtle feces. Coffee is studying the specimens to help determine where the animals are feeding and thereby protect endangered sea turtle populations like loggerheads and green turtles.

The “ultimate aim is to see if these different foraging grounds are impacting reproductive success,” Coffee said. “I hope to find which foraging areas are contributing more successful nesting females … so we can make sure those areas are being adequately protected.”

But to find out where the animals are feeding, Coffee must first determine what they’re eating — and that requires analyzing the animals’ feces.

Recently Coffee and his team captured six loggerhead sea turtles and took them to the university’s Moreton Bay Research Station.

“It was challenging to collect the entire fecal sample once it dispersed into the water, so we developed a flexible funnel anchored to the shell, to fit over the turtle’s tail,” he said.

However, the turtles — which can be about 3 feet long and weigh nearly 300 pounds at reproductive size — easily flicked off the funnels, so Coffee had to find a way to keep them in place.

That’s when the research stations education coordinator mentioned that researchers had previously designed a flexible harness when studying sea turtle hatchlings. It was made out of swimsuit material so it would fit snugly over the hatchlings' shells.

So Coffee purchased a few secondhand sunshirts, removed the sleeves and cut and sewed the shirts into turtle “swimsuits” to act as diapers.

Thanks to the suits, Coffee and his team were able to easily collect the necessary samples and then release the animals back into the ocean — without their fashionable suits.

Coffee’s study will continue for three years, and the fecal samples will be analyzed to determine which sea turtle feeding areas need greater protection.

Check out the latest in fashionable sea turtle swimwear in the photos below.

sea turtle in red swimsuitPhoto: Owen Coffee/University of Queenslandsea turtle in swimsuit as part of researchPhoto: Owen Coffee/University of Queenslandsea turtle in swimsuit at University of QueenslandPhoto: Owen Coffee/University of Queensland

Laura Moss writes about a variety of topics with a focus on animals, science, language and culture. But she mostly writes about cats.

Sea turtles wear swimsuits for science
While the turtles may look fashionable in their swimwear, the suits are actually helping researchers collect the animals' feces.