Sea Turtles Move Flippers in Karate-Like Moves to Take on Prey

Sea turtles have evolved into martial artists by using their hands in karate-like moves in order to better eat. They also have eating skills similar to children, reported The Telegraph.

Related: Sea Turtle Populations Are Recovering, Thanks to Humans

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A sea turtle swimming in Beirut, Lebanon. A new paper revealed that sea turtles use their limbs to assist with eating. JOSEPH EID/AFP/Getty Images)

"Sea turtles don't have a developed frontal cortex, independent articulating digits or any social learning. And yet here we have them 'licking their fingers' just like a kid who does have all those tools," Kyle Van Houtan, science director at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, told the newspaper.

But Houtan and his team at the aquarium discovered that sea turtles use their fins in human-like ways. After surveying images and videos of the creatures, the team found how sea turtles use their fins. For example, one turtle leveraged a reef to break an anemone away for meal time and another rolled a scallop along the floor of the ocean.

The authors note in their paper, published in the journal PeerJ, that many marine tetrapods, or four-footed animals, do use their limbs to forage for food, though it is still rare.

"Despite being the oldest extant line of marine tetrapods, this is the first time such a wide range of limb-use has been described in marine turtles," they write.

A sea turtle swims in Western France. LOIC VENANCE/AFP/Getty Images

According to ScienceDaily, walruses, seals and manatees all exhibited these behaviors. This new paper shows that sea turtles are very similar to other groups of sea mammals. Study co-author Jessica Fujii, also of the Monterey Bay Aquarium, said that using their limbs to dine isn't efficient but is nevertheless helpful to sea turtles.

"Sea turtles' limbs have evolved mostly for locomotion, not for manipulating prey," Fujii said in Science Daily. "But that they're doing it anyway suggests that, even if it's not the most efficient or effective way, it's better than not using them at all."

Although not perfected, these skills are vital as most sea turtles are carnivorous, according to Encyclopedia Britannica. Tracking down that jellyfish for dinner definitely takes some maneuvering.