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Put a giant sea turtle in a wind tunnel. What happens?

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Photo by T. Todd Jones

This is a fiberglass cast of a sea turtle, and it's inside a wind tunnel. Researchers from Canada and the U.S. set up this experiment to test how tagging devices increase drag—and make life harder—for marine animals. They found tags increased drag by less than five percent for turtles at least two feet in size. Smaller turtles, however, suffer more. A foot-wide turtle feels more than 20 percent more drag with a tracker on, while a half-foot-wide turtle's drag increases by more than 100 percent.

Trackers on sea turtles, fish, dolphins, and other animals send data to researchers about where its wearer travels, to what depths the animal dives, and more. This information is important for learning about different marine species and protecting them. At the same time, if the instruments subject animals to a lot of extra drag, that means just moving through everyday life requires a little more energy. Over long periods, that could reduce animals' ability to grow, survive, and reproduce. It could even make it harder for an animal to zoom away from a predator.

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