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First satellite tracks of South Atlantic sea turtle ‘lost years’: seasonal variation in trans-equatorial movement

TitleFirst satellite tracks of South Atlantic sea turtle ‘lost years’: seasonal variation in trans-equatorial movement
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2017
AuthorsMansfield, KL, Mendilaharsu, ML, Putman, NF, Marcovaldi, MAG dei, Sacco, AE, Lopez, G, Pires, T, Swimmer, Y
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society of London B: Biological Sciences
Volume284
ISSN0962-8452
Abstract

In the South Atlantic Ocean, few data exist regarding the dispersal of young oceanic sea turtles. We characterized the movements of laboratory-reared yearling loggerhead turtles from Brazilian rookeries using novel telemetry techniques, testing for differences in dispersal during different periods of the sea turtle hatching season that correspond to seasonal changes in ocean currents. Oceanographic drifters deployed alongside satellite-tagged turtles allowed us to explore the mechanisms of dispersal (passive drift or active swimming). Early in the hatching season turtles transited south with strong southward currents. Late in the hatching season, when currents flowed in the opposite direction, turtles uniformly moved northwards across the Equator. However, the movement of individuals differed from what was predicted by surface currents alone. Swimming velocity inferred from track data and an ocean circulation model strongly suggest that turtles’ swimming plays a role in maintaining their position within frontal zones seaward of the continental shelf. The long nesting season of adults and behaviour of post-hatchlings exposes young turtles to seasonally varying ocean conditions that lead some individuals further into the South Atlantic and others into the Northern Hemisphere. Such migratory route diversity may ultimately buffer the population against environmental changes or anthropologic threats, fostering population resiliency.

URLhttp://rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/284/1868/20171730
DOI10.1098/rspb.2017.1730