Environmental Biology of Fishes

, Volume 39, Issue 1, pp 85-96

First online:

Impalement of marine turtles (Reptitia, Chelonia: Cheloniidae and Dermochelyidae) by billfishes (Osteichthyes, Perciformes: Istiophoridae and Xiphiidae)

  • John G. FrazierAffiliated withCentro de Investigación y de Estudios Avanzados del IPN-Unidad Mérida Apartado 73‘Cordemex’Conservation Research Center, Smithsonian Institution
  • , Harry L. FierstineAffiliated withCollege of Science and Mathematics, California Polytechnic State University
  • , Sallie C. BeaversAffiliated withSouthwest Fisheries Science Center, National Marine Fisheries Service
  • , Federico AchavalAffiliated withMuseo Nacional de Historia Natural
  • , Hiroyuki SuganumaAffiliated withOgasawara Marine Center, Byobudani, Chichijima Ogasawara-mura
  • , Robert L. PitmanAffiliated withSouthwest Fisheries Science Center, National Marine Fisheries Service
  • , Yuichiro YamaguchiAffiliated withYamagata Mura
  • , Carlos Ma. PrigioniAffiliated withMuseo Nacional de Historia Natural

Rent the article at a discount

Rent now

* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.

Get Access


Billfishes have long been known to impale a great variety of objects, but there are only two brief, obscure records of marine turtles being speared. Details are presented on these two, as well as on two other confirmed records; data from two additional unconfirmed records are also presented. In total, three species of marine turtles are known to have been impaled by three species of billfishes; a fourth species of fish and a fourth species turtle are listed in an unconfirmed case. Records come from the eastern and western Pacific as well as the eastern Atlantic. Of the four confirmed cases, the turtles survived in two, and apparently died as an effect of the spearing in the other two. In three confirmed cases only the impaled rostrum was encountered, and in one confirmed case the entire fish was found, with its rostrum piercing the turtle. There is no obvious advantage — or clear disadvantage — involved in impaling turtles. It is argued that these attacks are accidental, and the result of attempts made by the billfish to capture prey that are near the turtle. These spearings indicate that the chelonians serve as shelters for prey animals on the high seas, and thus, are further evidence of the pelagic existence of marine turtles. The impalings are evidence of a singular ecological role of the turtles — as live fish aggregation devices.

Key words

Fish aggregation devices FADs Rostrum Spearing