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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 386:263-274 (2009)  -  DOI:

Tidal movements of East Pacific green turtle Chelonia mydas at a foraging area in Baja California Sur, México

Louise B. Brooks1,*, James T. Harvey1, Wallace J. Nichols2

1Moss Landing Marine Laboratories, 8272 Moss Landing Road, Moss Landing, 95039, USA
2California Academy of Sciences, 875 Howard Street, San Francisco, 94103, USA
*Email: (updated 2024; at publication:

ABSTRACT: We tracked East Pacific green turtles Chelonia mydas using GPS-VHF telemetry in Estero Banderitas, a tidally-influenced foraging area in Bahía Magdalena, Baja California Sur, México. Tidal currents were measured with a bottom-mounted Acoustic Doppler Profiler (ADP) and the data used to predict tidal current speed and direction at the location and time during which turtles were tracked. Twenty-nine turtles were tracked in the summers of 2000 to 2003. Vagility (mean ± SD; 18.6 ± 11.4 km d–1) and speed (0.83 ± 0.47 km h–1) of turtles was the greatest so far reported for green turtles at foraging areas. Turtles displayed highly linear movements, and movement patterns were circatidal. Vector correlation was used to compare turtle speed and direction with tidal speed and direction. Correlation coefficients were significant for 11 out of 13 tracks, indicating significant linear interdependence between turtles and tides. Speed and direction contributed equally to the correlation. Results indicated a new paradigm for green turtles in feeding areas, where turtles are transported on continual tides that allow them to exploit a patchy and seasonal distribution of algae, their main diet component. This tidal transport is markedly different than Selective Tidal Stream Transport, in which animals use either the ebb or flood tide for transport. Tidal currents may be an accurate indicator of turtle movement in tidal areas, and this transport system has implications for foraging ecology, energetics, and growth.

KEY WORDS: Green turtle · Tidal movements · East Pacific Ocean · Wildlife telemetry · Foraging · Acoustic Doppler Profiler

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Cite this article as: Brooks LB, Harvey JT, Nichols WJ (2009) Tidal movements of East Pacific green turtle Chelonia mydas at a foraging area in Baja California Sur, México. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 386:263-274.

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