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Fleeting Wonders: the 2015 Sea Turtle Swimsuit Collection

A sea turtle hatchling, playful and spunky in a piece from the Vision Research Collection.

A sea turtle hatchling, playful and spunky in a piece from the Vision Research Collection. (Photo: University of Queensland)

Sea turtles already sport some of the best accessories in the animal kingdom—those shells are so scute! But thanks to University of Queensland researchers, some Australian loggerheads were recently outfitted with something even better: “stylish, customized swimsuits,” tailored for each turtle out of material from gently used swim shirts.

This runway-worthy solution addressed a less glamorous problem—how to gather turtle feces, which normally disperse quickly in water. After ruling out a tail attachment, easily kicked off by a disgruntled turtle, PhD student Owen Coffee decided to try a kind of diaper-swimsuit combo to study the dietary habits of his endangered subjects.

Previous researchers had made something similar for hatchlings, so, like a late-season “Project Runway” contestant, all Coffee had to do was scale up the design and add some Velcro. It worked like a charm, and he soon had pounds of information about the reptiles’ favorite foods. ”Next time I do some research on the loggerhead, I’ll be using this swimsuit on all of them for sure,” Coffee told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

This adult loggerhead shows off a more daring piece from the 2015 Diaper Swimsuit line.

This adult loggerhead shows off a more daring piece from the 2015 Diaper Swimsuit line. (Photo: University of Queensland)

“The suits were easy to put on, comfortable for the sea turtles to wear, looked great, and Owen was able to collect the entire faecal sample,” Dr. Kathy Townsend told UQ News. Would that all species were granted such effective clothing.

Every day, we track down a fleeting wonder—something amazing that’s only happening right now. Have a tip for us? Tell us about it! Send your temporary miracles to cara@atlasobscura.com.