Marine Biology

, Volume 156, Issue 9, pp 1827–1839

Post-nesting migrations of loggerhead sea turtles in the Gulf of Mexico: dispersal in highly dynamic conditions

  • Charlotte Girard
  • Anton D. Tucker
  • Beatriz Calmettes
Original Paper

DOI: 10.1007/s00227-009-1216-z

Cite this article as:
Girard, C., Tucker, A.D. & Calmettes, B. Mar Biol (2009) 156: 1827. doi:10.1007/s00227-009-1216-z


This study is the first report of post-nesting migrations of loggerhead sea turtles (Caretta caretta) nesting in Sarasota County (Florida, USA), their most important rookery in the Gulf of Mexico (GOM). In total, 28 females (curved carapace length CCL between 82.2 and 112.0 cm) were satellite-tracked between May 2005 and December 2007. Post-nesting migrations were completed in 3–68 days (mean ± SD = 23 ± 16 days). Five different migration patterns were observed: six turtles remained in the vicinity of their nesting site while the other individuals moved either to the south-western part of the Florida Shelf (n = 9 turtles), the Northeast GOM (n = 2 turtles), the South GOM (Yucatán Shelf and Campeche Bay, Mexico, and Cuba; n = 5 turtles) or the Bahamas (n = 6 turtles). In average, turtles moved along rather straight routes over the continental shelf but showed more indirect paths in oceanic waters. Path analyses coupled with remote sensing oceanographic data suggest that most of long-distance migrants reached their intended foraging destinations but did not compensate for the deflecting action of ocean currents. While six out of seven small individuals (CCL < 90 cm) remained on the Florida Shelf, larger individuals showed various migration strategies, staying on the Florida Shelf or moving to long-distance foraging grounds. This study highlights the primary importance the Western Florida Shelf in the management of the Florida Nesting Subpopulation, as well as the need of multi-national effort to promote the conservation of the loggerhead turtle in the Western Atlantic.

Supplementary material

227_2009_1216_MOESM1_ESM.gif (5 mb)
ESM S1. Post-nesting migration of turtle FL06-1 with respect to surface currents. The turtle left Casey Key (Sarasota County, Florida) on 7 July 2006 and reached the Florida Keys 40 days later. Black squares highlight daily locations along the turtle’s track. Arrows represent surface currents (see material and methods) and background colors the sea surface height. It is worth noting that when the turtle reached oceanic waters, she faced an anti-cyclonic eddy originating from the Loop Current. (GIF 5083 kb)

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Charlotte Girard
    • 1
    • 2
  • Anton D. Tucker
    • 3
  • Beatriz Calmettes
    • 2
  1. 1.Département Ecologie, Physiologie et Ethologie, ULP, CNRSIPHCStrasbourgFrance
  2. 2.Collecte Localisation Satellites, Direction Océanographie SpatialeRamonville St AgneFrance
  3. 3.Mote Marine LaboratorySarasotaUSA