Monday, March 17, 2014

[Herpetology / Behaviour • 2014] First Satellite Tracks of Neonate Sea Turtles redefine the 'Lost Years' Oceanic Niche

Loggerhead Caretta caretta

Few at-sea behavioural data exist for oceanic-stage neonate sea turtles, a life-stage commonly referred to as the sea turtle ‘lost years’. Historically, the long-term tracking of small, fast-growing organisms in the open ocean was logistically or technologically impossible. Here, we provide the first long-term satellite tracks of neonate sea turtles. Loggerheads (Caretta caretta) were remotely tracked in the Atlantic Ocean using small solar-powered satellite transmitters. We show that oceanic-stage turtles (i) rarely travel in Continental Shelf waters, (ii) frequently depart the currents associated with the North Atlantic Subtropical Gyre, (iii) travel quickly when in Gyre currents, and (iv) select sea surface habitats that are likely to provide a thermal benefit or refuge to young sea turtles, supporting growth, foraging and survival. Our satellite tracks help define Atlantic loggerhead nursery grounds and early loggerhead habitat use, allowing us to re-examine sea turtle ‘lost years’ paradigms.

Keywords: sea turtle ‘lost years’, ocean migration, satellite telemetry, oceanic stage sea turtles, Caretta caretta, thermal niche

Tagged loggerhead sea turtle at swim.
Photo: Jim Abernethy

Katherine L. Mansfield, Jeanette Wyneken, Warren P. Porter and Jiangang Luo. 2014. First Satellite Tracks of Neonate Sea Turtles redefine the 'Lost Years' Oceanic Niche. Proceedings of the Royal Society B. 281, 20133039.

Mansfield KL, Wyneken J, Rittschoff D, Walsh M, Lim CW, Richards P. 2012. Satellite tag attachment methods for tracking neonate sea turtles. Mar. Ecol. Prog. Ser. 457, 181 – 192. doi: dx.doi.org10.3354/meps09485

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