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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 253:279-288 (2003)  -  doi:10.3354/meps253279

Movement patterns of green turtles in Brazilian coastal waters described by satellite tracking and flipper tagging

B. J. Godley1,*, E. H. S. M. Lima2, S. Åkesson3, A. C. Broderick1, F. Glen1, M. H. Godfrey4, P. Luschi5, G. C. Hays1

1Marine Turtle Research Group, School of Biological Sciences, University of Wales, Swansea SA2 8PP, Wales, UK
2Fundação Pró-TAMAR, Caixa Postal 01, 62-592-990, Almofala, Ceará, Brazil
3Department of Animal Ecology, Lund University, Ecology Building, 223 62 Lund, Sweden
4North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, 307 Live Oak Street, Beaufort, North Carolina 28516, USA
5Dipartimento di Etologia, Ecologia, Evoluzione, University of Pisa, Via A. Volta 6, 56126 Pisa, Italy

ABSTRACT: The movements of 8 green turtles Chelonia mydas in Brazilian coastal waters were tracked using transmitters linked to the Argos system for periods of between 1 and 197 d. These were the first tracking data gathered on juveniles of this species in this important foraging ground. Information was integrated with that collected over a decade using traditional flipper-tagging methods at the same site. Both satellite telemetry and flipper tagging suggested that turtles undertook 1 of 3 general patterns of behaviour: pronounced long range movements (>100 km), moderate range movements (<100 km) or extended residence very close to the capture/release site. There seemed to be a general tendency for the turtles recaptured/tracked further afield to have been among the larger turtles captured. Satellite tracking of 5 turtles which moved from the release site showed that they moved through coastal waters; a factor which is likely to predispose migrating turtles to incidental capture as a result of the prevailing fishing methods in the region. The movements of the 3 turtles who travelled less than 100 km from the release site challenge previous ideas relating to home range in green turtles feeding in sea grass pastures. We hypothesise that there may be a fundamental difference in the pattern of habitat utilisation by larger green turtles depending on whether they are feeding on seagrass or macroalgae. Extended tracking of 2 small turtles which stayed near the release point showed that small juvenile turtles, whilst in residence in a particular feeding ground, can also exhibit high levels of site-fidelity with home ranges of the order of several square kilometers.

KEY WORDS: Marine turtle · Chelonia mydas · Migration · Feeding · Mark-recapture · Home range · Incidental catch

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