Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Satellite tracking reveals sea turtle feeding hotspots

Date:
February 6, 2012
Source:
United States Geological Survey
Summary:
Satellite tracking of threatened loggerhead sea turtles has revealed two previously unknown feeding "hotspots" in the Gulf of Mexico that are providing important habitat for at least three separate populations of the turtles.

Satellite tracking of threatened loggerhead sea turtles has revealed two previously unknown feeding 'hotspots' in the Gulf of Mexico that are providing important habitat for at least three separate populations of the turtles, according to a study published recently in the journal Biological Conservation.

Related Articles


The two sites, located in the open waters off the coast of Southwest Florida and the northern tip of the Yucatan Peninsula, were found by a team of scientists when they compiled and analyzed loggerhead tracking data.

The researchers' goal was to synthesize tracking data from three genetically distinct loggerhead populations to learn more about how they use the Gulf of Mexico. By identifying the specific location of regularly used habitat, the results provide invaluable information for marine planning and management for this species, whose populations in the Gulf of Mexico are well below historic levels and in recent years have continued to decline drastically in some areas.

The maritime feeding grounds also hold the first clues about how loggerhead sea turtles spend time at sea -- which is, in essence, most of their lives.

"Up until now, management actions that affect loggerheads have often focused on their limited time at nesting beaches, or on fisheries regulations," said Kristen Hart, Ph.D., the U.S. Geological Survey research ecologist who led the synthesis. "Our findings open up important new options for marine habitat conservation, and provide valuable geographic data that can be used to strategically locate marine reserves based on the best available science, as called for in the new National Ocean Policy."

"The use of satellite tags for tracking marine animals has opened our eyes to the secret lives of some of nature's most elusive creatures," said USGS director Marcia McNutt, "At first a scientific tool to understand the life cycle of animals, such as white sharks and leatherback turtles, who rarely come into contact with humans, these tags may now be the main hope for understanding what we can do, or what we should stop doing, in order to bring them back from the road to extinction."

Researchers intercepted female loggerheads after their nesting forays to beaches and outfitted them with satellite tags at study sites in the Florida Panhandle, Casey Key in southwest Florida, and Dry Tortugas National Park. They then tracked the females' migrations and used a new method to determine precisely when they had arrived at "hotspot" foraging areas, in two geographically different locations.

Seven female turtles migrated to foraging sites off Southwest Florida, while the other three took up residence at foraging sites at the Yucatan site. Once the researchers applied the new method for synthesizing their satellite-tracking data, it became clear that these loggerhead turtles from all three populations consistently converged around two common sites. This confirmed a hunch that the researchers had developed after years of tracking turtles.

At both of the feeding hotspots, turtles selected individual sites where they foraged in shallow or nearshore waters less than fifty meters deep. Turtles appeared to prefer their own distinct territories, where they tended to remain resident. This suggests that it may be possible to accurately predict where sea turtles will feed, information that will prove vital for managers looking to focus conservation efforts on prime foraging habitat.

Researchers don't yet know what attracts loggerheads from around the Gulf to these specific feeding areas, although generally, loggerheads forage on the bottom of the sea floor for crustaceans such as crabs, lobsters, clams or conchs.

"The logical next step is to investigate what makes these particular sites 'prime' foraging grounds by mapping and sampling the habitat types found on the sea floor," explained Hart. "It would also be useful to tag loggerheads at these foraging sites to confirm how long they reside in these areas, or alternatively to see where they go next."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by United States Geological Survey. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Kristen M. Hart, Margaret M. Lamont, Ikuko Fujisaki, Anton D. Tucker, Raymond R. Carthy. Common coastal foraging areas for loggerheads in the Gulf of Mexico: Opportunities for marine conservation. Biological Conservation, 2012; 145 (1): 185 DOI: 10.1016/j.biocon.2011.10.030

Cite This Page:

United States Geological Survey. "Satellite tracking reveals sea turtle feeding hotspots." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 6 February 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/02/120206143952.htm>.
United States Geological Survey. (2012, February 6). Satellite tracking reveals sea turtle feeding hotspots. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/02/120206143952.htm
United States Geological Survey. "Satellite tracking reveals sea turtle feeding hotspots." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/02/120206143952.htm (accessed December 21, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Researchers Test Colombian Village With High Alzheimer's Rates

Researchers Test Colombian Village With High Alzheimer's Rates

AFP (Dec. 19, 2014) In Yarumal, a village in N. Colombia, Alzheimer's has ravaged a disproportionately large number of families. A genetic "curse" that may pave the way for research on how to treat the disease that claims a new victim every four seconds. Duration: 02:42 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Monarch Butterflies Descend Upon Mexican Forest During Annual Migration

Monarch Butterflies Descend Upon Mexican Forest During Annual Migration

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Dec. 19, 2014) Millions of monarch butterflies begin to descend onto Mexico as part of their annual migration south. Rough Cut (no reporter narration) Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
The Best Protein-Filled Foods to Energize You for the New Year

The Best Protein-Filled Foods to Energize You for the New Year

Buzz60 (Dec. 19, 2014) The new year is coming and nothing will energize you more for 2015 than protein-filled foods. Fitness and nutrition expert John Basedow (@JohnBasedow) gives his favorite high protein foods that will help you build muscle, lose fat and have endless energy. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Birds Might Be Better Meteorologists Than Us

Birds Might Be Better Meteorologists Than Us

Newsy (Dec. 19, 2014) A new study suggests a certain type of bird was able to sense a tornado outbreak that moved through the U.S. a day before it hit. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins