#27: Turtle Training

Some may find it strange to see video of a turtle in the marine mammal blog, but the marine mammal staff has the opportunity to train a sea turtle as well. The principals of operant conditioning and positive reinforcement can work with any animal, as long as you learn what it is that they find rewarding. Myrtle, a green sea turtle, finds fish and Brussels sprouts absolutely fabulous! Myrtle is approximately 75 years old and has been at the aquarium almost as long as we've been open. We began by teaching Myrtle to "target" or touch a white PVC pipe, by putting it in front of her and rewarding her for touching it. From there, she learned to discriminate between a white pipe, a black pipe and a black and white striped pipe. She has been stellar at this, always choosing her white pipe when presented with a choice. Now we have moved on to sending her to search for her target around the tank. Her signal to start searching is a sound made by popping a smaller pole in the water and pulling it out. You can see me giving her the signal in this video:

Myrtle should hear the sound and then swim to her pole where another trainer will toss her a few pieces of fish or a prized Brussels sprout. Myrtle has proved very capable of this behavior and in this video you'll be able to see the finished behavior. Enjoy!




  1. I don't get it... what does the sound sound like?

  2. I think Myrtle gets a sound signal and it tells her where to go. Looks like she went right to the food on the right hand side this time.

    More importantly, someone who actually likes brussel sprouts!

  3. big and smart!



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