New Insight into the Swimming Kinematics of Wild Green Sea Turtles (Chelonia mydas)
Biomechanically, sea turtles could be perceived as birds of the ocean as they glide and flap their forelimbs to produce the necessary forces required for locomotion, making sea turtles an interesting animal to study. However, being an endangered species makes studying the sea turtle's biomechanics a complex problem to solve, both technically and ethically, without causing disturbance. This work develops a novel, non-invasive procedure to develop full three-dimensional kinematics for wild sea turtles by filming the animals in Australia's Great Barrier Reef using underwater drones without disturbing them. We found that the wild animals had very different swimming patterns than previous studies on juveniles in captivity. Our findings show that the flipper goes through a closed-loop trajectory with extended sweeping of the flipper tip towards the centre of the carapace to create a clapping motion. We have named this the “sweep stroke” and in contrast to previously described four-stage models, it creates a five-stage cycle swimming locomotion model. The model presented here could lead to a better comprehension of the sea turtle propulsion methods and their fluid–structure interaction.