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Current Transport of Leatherback Sea Turtles (Dermochelys coriacea) in the Ocean

P. Luschi, A. Sale, R. Mencacci, G. R. Hughes, J. R. E. Lutjeharms and F. Papi
Proceedings: Biological Sciences
Vol. 270, Supplement: Biology Letters (Nov. 7, 2003), pp. S129-S132
Published by: Royal Society
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3592333
Page Count: 4
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Current Transport of Leatherback Sea Turtles (Dermochelys coriacea) in the Ocean
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Abstract

While the long-distance movements of pelagic vertebrates are becoming known thanks to satellite telemetry, the factors determining their courses have hardly been investigated. We have analysed the effects of oceanographic factors on the post-nesting movements of three satellite-tracked leatherback turtles (Dermochelys coriacea) moving in the southwest Indian Ocean. By superimposing the turtle tracks on contemporaneous images of sea-surface temperatures and sea height anomalies, we show that current-related features dominate the shape of the reconstructed routes. After an initial offshore movement, turtles moved along straight routes when in the core of the current, or executed loops within eddies. Large parts of the routes were strikingly similar to those of surface drifters tracked in the same region. These findings document that long-lasting oceanic movements of marine turtles may be shaped by oceanic currents.

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