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Flatback turtles are endemic to Australia and Papua New Guinea, yet despite their restricted area, very little is known about them.
Flatback turtles (Natator depressus) are endemic to Australia and Papua New Guinea. Unlike other species of marine turtles, this species does not have an oceanic phase in its life cycle and is therefore restricted to waters off the Australian/PNG continental shelf.
However, despite having one of the most restricted ranges of any of the sea turtles, scientists still know little about flatback turtle ecology. In particular, there is considerable information on the migration patterns and pathways of other sea turtle species as they move between foraging grounds and nesting beaches, and for many of these species we have a good understanding of what and where they eat. Such information is valuable for making informative management decisions and developing conservation strategies, e.g. provides information on critical habitats to protect, and it also allows monitoring of turtle populations size and health in the face of ongoing changes, be it anthropogenic, climate or natural changes.
In contrast, we know almost nothing on the migration pathways, diets or foraging grounds for flatbacks (e.g. do they even have specific foraging grounds). Given that there is a suite of studies showing how sea turtles are being adversely affected by environmental change, it is of priority that we obtain such information on flatbacks so as to monitor their health and their key habitats to gauge how they are responding to a changing environment. With the Great Barrier Reef suffering from additional and cumulative pressures, such research is of the utmost importance, as there is concern flatback habitats are being impacted without us even knowing it.