Tracking leatherback turtles (Dermochelys coriacea) during consecutive inter-nesting intervals: Further support for direct transmitter attachment

Rowan Byrne, John Fish, Thomas K. Doyle, Jonathan D. R. Houghton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Citations (SciVal)

Abstract

Over recent years there have been substantial efforts to record and interpret the post-nesting movements of leatherback turtles (Dermochelys coriacea) breeding in tropical regions. Less well documented are the movements undertaken by individual turtles during the breeding season itself, or more specifically between sequential nesting events. Such movements are of interest for two reasons: (1) gravid female leatherbacks may range extensively into the territorial waters and nesting beaches of neighbouring countries, raising questions for conservationists and population ecologists; and (2) the magnitude of movements themselves help elucidate underlying reproductive strategies (e.g. whether to rest near to the nesting or forage extensively). Here, satellite relay data loggers are used (SRDLs) to detail the movements and behaviour of two female leatherback turtles throughout three consecutive inter-nesting intervals in the Commonwealth of Dominica, West Indies. Both near-shore residence and extensive inter-nesting movements were recorded, contrasting previous studies, with movements away from the nesting beach increasing towards the end of the nesting season. Using this behavioural study as a backdrop, the suitability of attaching satellite transmitters directly to the carapace was additionally explored as an alternative approach to conventional harness deployments. Specifically, the principal aims were to (1) gather empirical data on speed of travel and (2) assess dive performance (aerobic dive limit) to enable comparisons with turtles previously fitted with harnesses elsewhere in the Caribbean (n = 6 turtles; Grenada, WI). This produced mixed results with animals bearing directly attached transmitters travelling significantly faster (55.21 km day− 1; SD 6.68) than harnessed individuals (39.80 km day− 1; SD 6.19); whilst no discernable difference in dive performance could be found between the two groups of study animals.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)68-75
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology
Volume377
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 23 Jul 2009

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