The relationship between loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta) movement patterns and Mediterranean currents
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- Bentivegna, F., Valentino, F., Falco, P. et al. Mar Biol (2007) 151: 1605. doi:10.1007/s00227-006-0600-1
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Previous studies have shown that loggerhead sea turtles (Caretta caretta), monitored by satellite telemetry, complete long-distance migration between the western and eastern Mediterranean basins following a seasonal pattern. This study investigated if these migration routes may be influenced by surface currents by superimposing the tracks of three loggerhead turtles (curved carapace length >55 cm), migrating from the western to the eastern Mediterranean basin, on Lagrangian data of current developed into pseudo-eulerian speed fields. The average travel speed of the turtles was 1.6 km h−1 and did not depend on the current speed or direction. We observed a connection between surface currents and the turtles’ migration routes, although not a conclusive one. These observations show that neritic stage loggerhead turtles conduct migration in two distinct alternate phases: the first characterized by high and constant speed of travel both when swimming with or against currents and the second typified by low travel speeds and a good concurrence between the trailed routes and the course of the currents. These two phases corresponded to two types of movements, one where the turtle migrates actively to reach a specific destination (either neritic foraging, wintering or nesting ground) and the other, where the turtle drifts with the mesoscale current and forages pelagically. It seemed thus, that the influence of currents on a turtle’s movements depends on the turtle’s momentary behaviour and location of residence.