Leatherback turtles satellite-tagged in European waters

T.K. Doyle, J.D.R. Houghton, V.J. Hobson, G.C. Hays, P.F. O'Súilleabháin, F. Marnell, J. Davenport, Jonathan Houghton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The North Atlantic is considered a stronghold for the critically endangered leatherback sea turtle. However, limited information exists regarding the movements of individuals to and from the seas off Europe's northwesterly fringe, an area where featherbacks have been historically sighted for the past 200 yr. Here, we used satellite telemetry to record the movements and behaviour of 2 individuals bycaught in fisheries off the southwest coast of Ireland. The turtle T1 (tagged 1 September 2005; female; tracked 375 d) immediately travelled south via Madeira and the Canaries, before residing in West African waters for 3 mo. In spring, T1 migrated north towards Newfoundland where transmissions ceased. T2 (29 June 2006; male; 233 d) travelled south for a short period before spending 66 d west of the Bay of Biscay, an area previously asserted as a high-use area for leatherbacks. This prolonged high latitude summer residence corresponded with a mesoscale feature evident from satellite imagery, with the implication that this turtle had found a rich feeding site. A marked change in dive behaviour was apparent as the turtle exited this feature and provided useful insights on leatherback diving behaviour. T2 headed south in October 2006, and performed the deepest-ever dive recorded by a reptile (1280 m) southwest of Cape Verde. Unlike T1, T2 swam southwest towards Brazil before approaching the major nesting beaches of French Guiana and Surinam. Importantly, these tracks document the movement of leatherbacks from one of the remotest foraging grounds in the North Atlantic.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)23-31
Number of pages9
JournalEndangered Species Research
Volume4
Issue number1-2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 21 Dec 2008

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