Habitat use by immature loggerhead sea turtles in the Algerian Basin (western Mediterranean): swimming behaviour, seasonality and dispersal pattern
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- Revelles, M., Cardona, L., Aguilar, A. et al. Mar Biol (2007) 151: 1501. doi:10.1007/s00227-006-0602-z
To study habitat use by loggerhead sea turtles in the Algerian Basin (western Mediterranean), ten juveniles (straight carapace length range: 39.0–63.3 cm) were tracked by satellite from March 2004 to September 2005. Swimming behaviour (characterized by speed of travel, time spent at the surface, and the cosine of turning angles) varied individually, but these differences were unrelated to body size. Despite individual differences in swimming behaviour, the ten immature loggerhead sea turtles spent most of their time in the oceanic waters of the Algerian Basin, although simulations indicated that the average tracking time (235.7 ± 98.7 SD days) was sufficiently long for them to leave the Algerian Basin and disperse through most of the Mediterranean. Furthermore, none of the ten turtles swam in any preferred direction, and their bearings were all randomly distributed. Finally, all them consistently avoided the continental shelf and did not migrate seasonally, as the average latitude, the average longitude, and the average distance of the population to the release point did not change seasonally. Seasonality also had only a weak influence in swimming behaviour, as the time spent at the surface during light hours was the only parameter that changed seasonally. We conclude that immature loggerhead sea turtles in the south of the western Mediterranean exhibit a strong fidelity to the Algerian Basin, where distribution is ruled mainly by the bathymetry, without any influence of seasonality. That fidelity to the Algerian Basin matches predictions based on genetic structuring and might result from a combination of factors: surface circulation patterns and habitat selection by the loggerhead sea turtles.