ESR 21:129-142 (2013)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/esr00512

Postnesting migratory behavior of loggerhead sea turtles Caretta caretta from three Florida rookeries

Allen M. Foley1,*, Barbara A. Schroeder2, Robert Hardy3, Sandra L. MacPherson4, Mark Nicholas5, Michael S. Coyne6

1Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Fish and Wildlife Research Institute, Jacksonville Field Laboratory, Jacksonville, Florida 32218, USA
2National Marine Fisheries Service, Office of Protected Resources, Silver Spring, Maryland 20910, USA
3Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Fish and Wildlife Research Institute, St. Petersburg, Florida 33701, USA
4US Fish and Wildlife Service, Jacksonville, Florida 32256, USA
5National Park Service, Gulf Islands National Seashore, Gulf Breeze, Florida 32563, USA
61 Southampton Place, Durham, North Carolina 27705, USA

ABSTRACT: We used satellite telemetry to study postnesting migrations of 42 loggerhead sea turtles Caretta caretta from 3 Florida rookeries. Postnesting migrations ended in neritic (<200 m) waters of Florida, Alabama, Texas (USA), and of Mexico and the Bahamas. Most postnesting migrations were restricted to the continental shelf and were relatively direct. Migrations through oceanic areas (>200 m) tended to be less direct, largely due to apparent influences of the Florida Current in the Atlantic and to looping travel paths (often along edges of mesoscale eddies of the Loop Current) in the Gulf of Mexico. The largest loggerheads tended to migrate to foraging grounds that were farthest from the nesting beach. Turtles spent more time near the surface (<3 m) when migrating than they did during residency at foraging sites, and were likely swimming just below the surface. The substantial amount of time spent near the bottom in neritic areas and the looping travel paths in oceanic areas indicate that migrating loggerheads may have been foraging. We identified 4 migratory corridors. Two were on the continental shelf of the Florida Panhandle, 1 was along the northern coast of Cuba, and 1 was along the southeastern coast of Florida. Migrating loggerheads may be uniquely vulnerable to mortality factors because of where they travel and how they behave, particularly if they are concentrated in narrow (perhaps <10 km wide) migratory corridors. Characterizing the behavior and identifying the travel paths of loggerheads during postnesting migrations are necessary steps for implementing successful recovery efforts.


KEY WORDS: Caretta caretta · Sea turtle · Postnesting migration · Satellite tracking · Telemetry · Migratory corridor


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Cite this article as: Foley AM, Schroeder BA, Hardy R, MacPherson SL, Nicholas M, Coyne MS (2013) Postnesting migratory behavior of loggerhead sea turtles Caretta caretta from three Florida rookeries. Endang Species Res 21:129-142. https://doi.org/10.3354/esr00512

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