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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 483:289-302 (2013)  -  DOI:

Seasonal diving behaviour and feeding rhythms of green turtles at Mayotte Island

Katia Ballorain1,2,3,*, Jérôme Bourjea4, Stéphane Ciccione5, Akiko Kato1,2, Nicolas Hanuise1,2,6, Manfred Enstipp1,2, Sabrina Fossette7, Jean-Yves Georges1,2 

1Université de Strasbourg, IPHC, 23 rue Becquerel, 67087 Strasbourg, France
2CNRS, UMR 7178, 67037 Strasbourg, France
3Université de La Réunion, 15 Avenue René Cassin, BP 7151, 97715 Saint-Denis Messag Cedex 9, La Réunion, France
4Institut Français de Recherche pour l’Exploitation de la Mer, Délégation de La Réunion, Rue Jean Bertho, BP 60,
97822 Le Port Cedex, La Réunion, France
5Kelonia, l’Observatoire des tortues marines de La Réunion, 46 rue du Général de Gaulle, 97436 Saint Leu, La Réunion, France
6Centre d’Études Biologiques de Chizé, CEBC-CNRS UPR 1934, 79360 Villiers en Bois, France
7Biological Sciences, College of Science, Swansea University, Singleton Park, Swansea SA2 8PP, UK

ABSTRACT: In long-distance migratory marine species foraging behaviour remains particularly difficult to study even though it has important consequences for individual life history. Indeed, studies assessing concurrent dive patterns and feeding behaviour remain rare. We investigated the daily and seasonal feeding rhythms of green turtles Chelonia mydas on a coastal seagrass meadow at Mayotte, in the South Western Indian Ocean. Between 2005 and 2008, the behaviour of 19 green turtles (body mass: 86.8 to 134.0 kg) was recorded using electronic time-temperature-depth recorders, concurrently validated by direct in-water observations. Additionally, fast-acquisition global positioning system units were deployed on 3 of these turtles. Green turtles showed a high fidelity to the foraging site and conducted predominately flat-bottom dives, in accordance with both local bathymetry and tidal regime. On a daily basis, 2 main dive categories were identified: short-shallow foraging dives (mean ± SE: 6.0 ± 0.0 min for 2.0 ± 0.0 m) occurred during the day on the seagrass meadow, and long-deep resting dives (50.9 ± 19.0 min for 10.3 ± 1.4 m) occurred at night in coral and rocky areas. On a seasonal basis, mean dive duration increased from summer to winter (from 9.5 ± 0.5 to 15.7 ± 1.1 min) and was negatively correlated with seasonal water temperature (range: 25.7°C in winter to 29.3°C in summer). However, the daily foraging duration (~11 h d–1) did not vary significantly with season. Investigating green turtle foraging patterns is crucial for an understanding of their contribution to coastal ecosystem functioning.

KEY WORDS: Sea turtles · Foraging behaviour · Diving behaviour · Diel pattern · Seasonal pattern · Seagrass

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Cite this article as: Ballorain K, Bourjea J, Ciccione S, Kato A and others (2013) Seasonal diving behaviour and feeding rhythms of green turtles at Mayotte Island. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 483:289-302.

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