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MEPS
Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 614:173-182 (2019)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps12909

Individual variability in the settlement of juvenile green turtles in the western South Atlantic Ocean: relevance of currents and somatic growth rate

Patricia Campos, Luis Cardona*

IRBio and Department of Evolutionary Biology, Ecology and Environmental Science, Faculty of Biology, University of Barcelona, Avenida Diagonal 643, 08028 Barcelona, Spain
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: The settlement of demersal animals is influenced both by physical processes ruling the distribution of pelagic juveniles in the open ocean and by their active selection of suitable benthic habitats. Green turtles Chelonia mydas inhabiting the coastal areas of the western South Atlantic Ocean derive primarily from the rookery at Ascension Island and settle over a huge area spanning from northern Brazil to Uruguay. Here, we analysed the stable C and N isotope ratios in 30 µm of carapace layers from juvenile green turtles collected from 2 distinct areas of Brazil (Praia do Forte, 12°38’S, 38°05’W, and Ubatuba, 23°26’S, 45°05’W), with the goal of reconstructing their individual diets and habitat use patterns. Juvenile neritic green turtles from Praia do Forte usually had herbivorous diets, with limited individual variability and few temporal changes in diet or habitat. Conversely, most juvenile green turtles from Ubatuba had omnivorous diets, although they exhibited high levels of individual and temporal variability. These contrasting patterns could be linked to less abundant and predictable food availability in subtropical Ubatuba compared to tropical Praia do Forte. It is unknown why large numbers of juvenile green turtles bypass foraging grounds in north-eastern Brazil to settle in subtropical or warm temperate areas, although it may be related to individual differences in growth rate and their size being too small when reaching Brazil from Ascension Island.


KEY WORDS: Juvenile turtles · Chelonia mydas · Settlement · Developmental habitat · Stable isotopes


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Cite this article as: Campos P, Cardona L (2019) Individual variability in the settlement of juvenile green turtles in the western South Atlantic Ocean: relevance of currents and somatic growth rate. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 614:173-182. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps12909

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