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New Perspectives on the Pelagic Stage of Sea Turtle Development

Archie Carr
Conservation Biology
Vol. 1, No. 2 (Aug., 1987), pp. 103-121
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2385827
Page Count: 19
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New Perspectives on the Pelagic Stage of Sea Turtle Development
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Abstract

An original difficulty in accepting the idea of a pelagic developmental period for sea turtles was to explain how food could be found in reliable supply in the open ocean. The uncertainty that this introduced was removed when I belatedly came to appreciate the prevalence and diversity of convergences where downwelling gathers and aligns buoyant material, including the dispersed food resources of the surface waters. Thus, it now seems clear that an essential factor in the survival of young sea turtles-and of other elements of the epipelagic, open-ocean fauna as well-is the accessibility of a front, where inanimate debris and any floating animal or plant will be gathered in. This new evidence of complexity in the lost-year ecology of sea turtles has important implications for their conservation and management. It is now obvious that when young cultured sea turtles are released in so-called head-starting projects, the release sites ought to be chosen with the greatest care. Shores located at a distance from any major current or its eddy ought to be avoided. It is also necessary to avoid release localities where the convergence habitat may carry heavy loads of pollutants. Results of the present work reveal an urgent need for further study of sea turtle life cycles, with special attention to their developmental ecology. The growing evidence for a more protracted pelagic stage, during which the juvenile turtles are passive migrants in fronts that are increasingly invaded by debris and toxic wastes, emphasizes the need for a better understanding, by marine biologists, of the organization of the driftline habitat and the behavioral ecology of its occupants. Until these studies of the oceanography and biology of driftlines are done, we are bound to remain peculiarly ignorant of the ecologic organization of three-fifths of the surface of the earth.

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