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ESR 2:71-79 (2006)  -  doi:10.3354/esr002071

Behaviour analysis of the loggerhead sea turtle Caretta caretta from direct in-water observation

Gail Schofield1,4,*, Kostas A. Katselidis1,2, Panayotis Dimopoulos1, John D. Pantis3, Graeme C. Hays4

1Department of Environmental & Natural Resources Management, University of Ioannina, G. Seferi 2, 30100 Agrinio, Greece
2National Marine Park of Zakynthos, 1 El. Venizelou Str., 29100 Zakynthos, Greece
3Department of Ecology, School of Biology, UP Box 119, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, 54006 Thessaloniki, Greece
4Department of Biological Sciences, Institute of Environmental Sustainability, University of Wales Swansea, Singleton Park, Swansea SA2 8PP, UK

ABSTRACT: Direct observation of animal behaviour is essential for the effective conservation of endangered species in their natural habitat, understanding their function within ecosystems and validating inferences made using remote technology. The aim of this study was to document the daytime behavioural activity of loggerhead sea turtles Caretta caretta at a temperate breeding area through direct observations. Between April and July of 2003 to 2005, turtle behaviour on initial sighting was recorded during 287 h of observation, comprising 1534 sighting events of solitary (n = 80 male, n = 1335 female) and social (n = 65 same sex, n = 54 mixed sex) activity. We grouped observed activities into 4 solitary and 2 social behaviours, which were divided into 14 sub-categories. Solitary behaviour included resting, swimming, foraging and cleaning. Social behaviour included antagonistic interactions and reproductive activity. Foraging, cleaning and female–female contests are not documented in published literature for loggerhead sea turtles at breeding areas. Our results suggest that during the breeding period (1) male behaviour was primarily social and active (2) female behaviour was primarily solitary and inactive.

KEY WORDS: Sea turtle · Behaviour · Solitary · Social · Activity · Interaction

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