ESR 32:309-319 (2017)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/esr00812

Movement patterns of juvenile hawksbill turtles Eretmochelys imbricata at a Caribbean coral atoll: long-term tracking using passive acoustic telemetry

Megan G. Chevis1,2, Brendan J. Godley1, James P. Lewis3, Julie Jackson Lewis2, Kylie L. Scales4,5, Rachel T. Graham2,*

1Centre for Ecology and Conservation, University of Exeter, Penryn Campus, TR10 9EZ, UK
2MarAlliance, 32 Coconut Drive/PO Box 283, San Pedro, Ambergris Caye, Belize
3Amphibian Survival Alliance, International Conservation House, 7078 Airlie Road, Warrenton, VA 20187, USA
4Institute of Marine Sciences, University of California, Santa Cruz, CA 95064, USA
5NOAA Southwest Fisheries Center, Environmental Research Division, 99 Pacific Street, Suite #255A, Monterey, CA 93950, USA
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Understanding the ecological interactions that underlie marine ecosystem functioning requires sufficient data describing habitat use by mobile species. Hawksbill turtles Eretmochelys imbricata are considered a key species in coral reef-associated communities, owing to their specific foraging preferences, yet new information is still revealing details of the spatial and temporal aspects of habitat use. We used passive acoustic telemetry to monitor the movements of 18 juvenile hawksbills (minimum curved carapace length: 32.0-59.7 cm, mean ± SD = 43.9 ± 6.7 cm) at a developmental foraging site in a Mesoamerican barrier reef, Lighthouse Reef Atoll in Belize (tracking duration 10-1414 d, mean ± SD = 570 ± 484 d). Although specific home ranges were difficult to quantify, several turtles showed high site fidelity over timescales of months to years, with occasional wide-ranging use of the atoll. Diel variation in the number of detections received strongly suggest nocturnal resting. Long-term tracking data reveal 3 degrees of site fidelity across the atoll, based on the number of detection days near individual stations: high residency (n = 4 turtles), sequential residency (n = 5), and transient behavior (n = 4). These variations in movement raise questions about the differentiation of foraging habitats and degree of individual specialization within this population, as well as the influences of microhabitats and human disturbance.


KEY WORDS: Spatial ecology · Home range · Belize · Habitat use · Site fidelity · Marine megafauna · World Heritage Site


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Cite this article as: Chevis MG, Godley BJ, Lewis JP, Jackson Lewis J, Scales KL, Graham RT (2017) Movement patterns of juvenile hawksbill turtles Eretmochelys imbricata at a Caribbean coral atoll: long-term tracking using passive acoustic telemetry. Endang Species Res 32:309-319. https://doi.org/10.3354/esr00812

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