How One Manicurist Saved Science


Scientists have long wondered what happens during a sea turtles’ “lost years,” that is, the time after the turtles hatch from eggs and scurry into the ocean until the time they’re revisiting the beach as full-sized adults. It’s difficult to keep track of something swimming about the depths of the ocean, which is why Katherine Mansfield of University of Central Florida and her team decided they needed a satellite tracking tag to map the whereabouts of the Atlantic loggerhead turtles. The only issue was how to attach it to the animal.

Their first attempts to glue the tiny tag onto the turtles’ shells failed. The shells grew so quickly that the glue was useless within just a few weeks. They would ultimately just fall off. After several attempts, Mansfield and team had a breakthrough.

“We realized that the turtles’ shells are made of keratin—the same thing as human fingernails,” says Mansfield. “So, we contacted my collaborator’s manicurist and she suggested using an acrylic base coat to seal the shell from peeling.” And it worked! The tags stayed on the shells, allowing the team to follow turtles for an impressive 27 to 220 days. Another victory for proper nail care products!

You can see more on the turtles here.

[Image: Thinkstock/iStock]

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