Research Article

Marine Biology

, Volume 152, Issue 5, pp 1039-1049

First online:

A model of area fidelity, nomadism, and distribution patterns of loggerhead sea turtles (Caretta caretta) in the Mediterranean Sea

  • Paolo CasaleAffiliated withDipartimento di Biologia Animale e dell’Uomo, Università “La Sapienza” Email author 
  • , Daniela FreggiAffiliated withSea Turtle Rescue Centre WWF Italy
  • , Roberto BassoAffiliated withMuseo Civico di Storia Naturale di Jesolo
  • , Carola ValliniAffiliated withA.R.C.H.E’
  • , Roberto ArganoAffiliated withDipartimento di Biologia Animale e dell’Uomo, Università “La Sapienza”

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Sea turtle tagging carried out in Italy in the period 1981–2006 resulted in 125 re-encounters of loggerhead turtles (Caretta caretta) after a mean of 2.5 years, from different marine areas in the Mediterranean. At first finding, turtles ranged 25–83 cm of curved carapace length. Data were analyzed according to size, area, habitat type, season, in order to provide indication of movement patterns. When integrated with other information, results indicate that: (1) a part of turtles in the oceanic stage show a nomad behavior with movements among different oceanic areas; (2) another part show fidelity to an oceanic area; (3) turtles in the neritic stage show fidelity to neritic areas, and once settled to one area, change to other neritic areas is unlikely; (4) nomad oceanic turtles are significantly larger than sedentary ones, and also larger than turtles found in neritic areas; it is hypothesized that these could be Atlantic turtles that eventually leave the Mediterranean; (5) ecological transition from oceanic to neritic habitats occurs at a wide range of sizes, and some turtles may have a very brief oceanic stage; (6) turtles in the oceanic stage are more likely to recruit to neritic areas close to their oceanic areas than to distant ones; (7) part of turtles from some Mediterranean nesting beaches might frequent a relatively limited area range, including both oceanic and neritic areas; (8) in most of the Mediterranean, latitudinal seasonal migrations are unlikely. A general model of movement patterns of loggerhead turtles in the Mediterranean is proposed.