ESR 9:91-97 (2009)  -  doi:10.3354/esr00227

Foraging ecology of oceanic-stage loggerhead turtles Caretta caretta

Michael G. Frick1,*, Kristina L. Williams1, Alan B. Bolten2, Karen A. Bjorndal2, Helen R. Martins3

1Caretta Research Project, 9 Sandy Creek Court, Savannah, Georgia 31406, USA
2Archie Carr Center for Sea Turtle Research and Department of Zoology, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida 32611, USA
3Department of Oceanography and Fisheries, University of the Azores, 9901-862 Horta, Azores, Portugal
*Corresponding author. Email:

ABSTRACT: We examined stomach contents (n = 12) and fecal samples (n = 4) in the first quantitative analysis of diet composition of oceanic-stage loggerhead turtles Caretta caretta from the North Atlantic Ocean. We found that loggerheads from the Azores are opportunistic carnivores that feed upon a variety of oceanic and pelagic organisms; our results also show that they exploited novel food resources, such as non-indigenous species. The diversity of prey species was positively correlated with loggerhead body size and volume of stomach contents. Because loggerhead body size was also positively correlated with stomach content volume, we were unable to determine whether increased prey diversity was a result of turtle foraging behavior or simply due to a larger sample volume from larger turtles. Ecological associations among prey species increase the diversity, and possibly the nutritional quality, of prey items, and periodic meteorological events can also increase the diversity of prey items available to loggerhead turtles. Aspects of the life history of some of these prey organisms, such as continued egg brooding, increase the nutritional value of prey items consumed by juvenile turtles. 

KEY WORDS: Loggerhead · Caretta caretta · Foraging ecology · Diet · Azores · Sea turtle

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Cite this article as: Frick MG, Williams KL, Bolten AB, Bjorndal KA, Martins HR (2009) Foraging ecology of oceanic-stage loggerhead turtles Caretta caretta. Endang Species Res 9:91-97

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