MEPS 562:163-179 (2016)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps11972

Long-term and seasonal patterns of sea turtle home ranges in warm coastal foraging habitats: implications for conservation

Takahiro Shimada1,2,*, Rhondda Jones3, Colin Limpus4, Rachel Groom5, Mark Hamann1,2 

1College of Science and Engineering, James Cook University, Townsville, Queensland 4811, Australia
2Centre for Tropical Water and Aquatic Ecosystem Research, James Cook University, Townsville, Queensland 4811, Australia
3Division of Tropical Health & Medicine, James Cook University, Townsville, Queensland 4811, Australia
4Queensland Department of Environment and Heritage Protection, Brisbane, Queensland 4102, Australia
5Northern Territory Department of Land Resource Management, Flora and Fauna Division, Marine Ecosystems Group, Darwin 0828, Australia
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Home range analysis is a powerful tool for identifying priority areas for conservation, but estimating the home range for many species is still challenging. In particular, highly mobile species may use different areas at different times (e.g. summer or winter), so temporally biased location data may only partially represent their home range. We investigated the temporal patterns in habitat use of green turtles Chelonia mydas (n = 52) and loggerhead turtles Caretta caretta (n = 20) at longer (>1 yr) and shorter (<1 yr) scales. The study was conducted in subtropical and tropical foraging habitats along the Queensland coast of Australia between 1991 and 2015. Each turtle was tracked by a satellite-linked tag for the effective life of the device; 3 turtles were tracked twice. Mark-recapture studies were also conducted intermittently. Single satellite-tag deployments confirmed site fidelity to a foraging habitat for up to 2.5 yr in green turtles and 2.7 yr in loggerhead turtles. Further, combining satellite telemetry and mark-recapture records indicated much longer periods of foraging residency, up to 17 yr for green turtles and 23 yr for loggerhead turtles. No tracked turtles made substantial changes in their foraging range between years. Within the long-term home range, subtropical turtles tended to shift their foraging areas seasonally. Consequently, for many turtles, the existing conservation legislation provided protection in some seasons but not others. Our results emphasise the importance of protecting areas according to the turtles’ use of space, with careful consideration given to identify temporal trends in their habitat selection.


KEY WORDS: Home range · Site fidelity · Seasonal shift · Satellite telemetry · Sea turtles · Chelonia mydas · Caretta caretta


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Cite this article as: Shimada T, Jones R, Limpus C, Groom R, Hamann M (2016) Long-term and seasonal patterns of sea turtle home ranges in warm coastal foraging habitats: implications for conservation. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 562:163-179. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps11972

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