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ESR 4:23-31 (2008)  -  DOI:

Leatherback turtles satellite-tagged in European waters

Thomas K. Doyle1,*, Jonathan D. R. Houghton2, Pádraig Frank O’Súilleabháin3, Victoria J. Hobson2, Ferdia Marnell4, John Davenport5, Graeme C. Hays2

1Coastal & Marine Resources Centre, University College Cork, Glucksman Marine Facility, Naval Base, Haulbowline, Cobh, Cork, Ireland
2Institute of Environmental Sustainability, Department of Biological Sciences, Swansea University, Singleton Park, Swansea SA2 8PP, UK
3Salmon Fisherman’s Association, Baile Na nGall, Dingle (Daingean Uí Chúis), Ireland
4National Parks and Wildlife Service, of the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government, 7 Ely Place, Dublin 2, Ireland
5Department of Zoology, Ecology and Plant Sciences, University College Cork, Distillery Fields, North Mall Cork, Ireland

ABSTRACT: The North Atlantic is considered a stronghold for the critically endangered leatherback sea turtle. However, limited information exists regarding the movements of individuals to and from the seas off Europe’s northwesterly fringe, an area where leatherbacks have been historically sighted for the past 200 yr. Here, we used satellite telemetry to record the movements and behaviour of 2 individuals bycaught in fisheries off the southwest coast of Ireland. The turtle T1 (tagged 1 September 2005; female; tracked 375 d) immediately travelled south via Madeira and the Canaries, before residing in West African waters for 3 mo. In spring, T1 migrated north towards Newfoundland where transmissions ceased. T2 (29 June 2006; male; 233 d) travelled south for a short period before spending 66 d west of the Bay of Biscay, an area previously asserted as a high-use area for leatherbacks. This prolonged high latitude summer residence corresponded with a mesoscale feature evident from satellite imagery, with the implication that this turtle had found a rich feeding site. A marked change in dive behaviour was apparent as the turtle exited this feature and provided useful insights on leatherback diving behaviour. T2 headed south in October 2006, and performed the deepest-ever dive recorded by a reptile (1280 m) southwest of Cape Verde. Unlike T1, T2 swam southwest towards Brazil before approaching the major nesting beaches of French Guiana and Surinam. Importantly, these tracks document the movement of leatherbacks from one of the remotest foraging grounds in the North Atlantic.

KEY WORDS: Dermochelys · Summer residence · Northeast Atlantic · Ireland · High-use area · Abundance · Male · Deepest dive

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Cite this article as: Doyle TK, Houghton JD, O’Súilleabháin PF, Hobson VJ, Marnell F, Davenport J, Hays GC (2008) Leatherback turtles satellite-tagged in European waters. Endang Species Res 4:23-31.

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