MEPS 189:263-273 (1999) - doi:10.3354/meps189263
Changes in behaviour during the inter-nesting period and post-nesting migration for Ascension Island green turtles
G. C. Hays1,*, P. Luschi2, F. Papi2, C. del Seppia3, R. Marsh4
ABSTRACT: Satellite transmitters were attached to green turtles Chelonia mydas while they were nesting on Ascension Island in the South Atlantic (7°57'S, 14°22'W) and individuals were subsequently monitored during the inter-nesting period and the post-nesting migration to Brazil. During the inter-nesting period, data from the transmitters suggested that turtles generally stayed within 5 km of the nesting beach on which they had originally been observed. During both the inter-nesting period and migration, turtles were submerged the vast majority (>95%) of the time, suggesting that they neither basked at the surface nor drifted passively during migration to any great extent. There was a clear dichotomy in submergence behaviour, with submergences tending to be of short duration during post-nesting migration (mean = 7.3 min, 3318 h of data from 5 individuals) and of longer duration during the inter-nesting period (mean = 22.1 min, 714 h of data from 5 different individuals). As submergence duration is generally linked to activity levels in sea turtles, this pattern suggests that turtles were comparatively inactive during the inter-nesting period and comparatively active during migration. During both the inter-nesting period and the post-nesting migration, diel submergence patterns were detected with dive duration tending to be longer at night. As the turtles migrated WSW from Ascension Island, there was a reduction in their speed of travel. A numerical model of the near-surface currents suggested that this reduction was associated with the weakening of the WSW flow of the prevailing South Atlantic Equatorial Current.
KEY WORDS: Green turtle · Chelonia mydas · Satellite tracking · Submergence · Ascension Island
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