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Rare Hybrid Hawksbill-Green Sea Turtle Released in Florida

The turtle will participate in an annual ‘race’ put on by a Florida-based sea turtle conservation group

"Maisy" a rare hybrid hawskbill-green sea turtle being released into the Atlantic in the Florida Keys. The turtle's satellite tracking tag will allow it to participate in a "race" put on by a sea turtle conservation group. (Florida Keys News Bureau)
smithsonianmag.com

Last week in the Florida Keys, a rare hybrid hawksbill-green sea turtle made its way back into the Atlantic Ocean sporting a satellite tracking tag affixed to its marbled amber shell. The tag will track the turtle’s progress along its migration route and allow it to “race” eight other sea turtles in this year’s Tour de Turtles, reports the Associated Press.

Though a bit slower than the Tour de France, the annual online turtle race is put on by the conservation non-profit the Sea Turtle Conservancy (STC) to teach the public about sea turtles and promote their conservation. The winner of the race will be “the first turtle to swim the furthest distance during the migration marathon,” per the STC site.

The rare hybrid turtle, which has been named “Maisy,” was rescued nearly a year ago off the Lower Keys and rehabilitated at the Turtle Hospital. Maisy was suffering from fibropapillomatosis, according to the AP, which is a condition affecting sea turtles around the world that causes the afflicted turtle to develop internal or external tumors and is thought to be the result of infection from a herpes virus.

The staff of the Turtle Hospital in Marathon, Florida, removed multiple tumors and provided Maisy with antibiotics and a nutritious diet as part of the turtle’s treatment, reports local broadcast network CBS Miami.

Now tumor free, Maisy is set to swim in the 13th Tour de Turtles while raising awareness about sea turtle conservation and, in particular, fibropapillomatosis.

“Beyond the educational aspect and the awareness is the science behind it,” says Dan Evans, a senior research biologist with the Sea Turtle Conservancy, in a statement. “So especially for Maisy — Maisy’s the first hybrid sea turtle we’ve ever tracked, and she is a cross between a green sea turtle and a hawksbill sea turtle — so for her, it’s gonna be really interesting to see if she goes into habitat that is used by hawksbills or habitat that is used by green turtles.”

A separate race is already underway in what you might call the heavyweight division of sea turtles. There are just seven species of sea turtles and Maisy is a hybrid of two of them, but the largest of them all is the leatherback. These soft-shelled sea turtles can grow to six and a half feet long and weigh some 2,000 pounds. Leatherbacks are in their own race because they easily outpace their smaller brethren.

Maisy’s race in the shelled division starts August 1 and will conclude October 31, but you can already track her progress online.

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