Leatherback sea turtles (Dermochelys coriacea) travel thousands of kilometres between temperate feeding and tropical breeding/over-wintering grounds, with adult turtles able to pinpoint specific nesting beaches after multi-year absences. Their extensive migrations often occur in oceanic habitat where limited known sensory information is available to aid in orientation. Here, we examined the migratory orientation of adult male, adult female and subadult leatherbacks during their open-ocean movements within the North Atlantic subtropical gyre by analysing satellite-derived tracks from fifteen individuals over a 2-year period. To determine the turtles' true headings, we corrected the reconstructed tracks for current drift and found negligible differences between current-corrected and observed tracks within the gyre. Individual leatherback headings were remarkably consistent throughout the subtropical gyre, with turtles significantly oriented to the south-southeast. Adult leatherbacks of both sexes maintained similar mean headings and showed greater orientation precision overall. The consistent headings maintained by adult and subadult leatherbacks within the gyre suggest use of a common compass sense.
Orientation Behaviour of Leatherback Sea Turtles within the North Atlantic Subtropical Gyre
Title: Orientation Behaviour of Leatherback Sea Turtles within the North Atlantic Subtropical Gyre
April 01, 2015
Journal: Proceedings of Royal Society B
Publisher: The Royal Society
Dodge, K.; Galuardi, B.; Lutcavage, M. (2015). Orientation Behaviour of Leatherback Sea Turtles within the North Atlantic Subtropical Gyre. Proceedings of Royal Society B, 282(1804), 1-7.