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Marine Biology

, Volume 147, Issue 4, pp 845–853 | Cite as

Migratory and reproductive movements of male leatherback turtles (Dermochelys coriacea)

  • Michael C. JamesEmail author
  • Scott A. Eckert
  • Ransom A. Myers
Research Article

Abstract

The biology of the endangered leatherback turtle (Dermochelys coriacea) at sea is poorly understood. As research has been almost exclusively limited to studies of nesting females, the movements of male turtles and the timing and location of mating activity have remained unknown. We report on the first deployments of satellite tags on male leatherbacks. Male migration to and residency in waters adjacent low-latitude nesting beaches in the western Atlantic suggest that this is where mating occurs, and return migration to these areas reveals male fidelity for breeding sites. Rate of travel decreased markedly after arriving in coastal breeding areas, where males remained for up to 96 days before assuming northward migrations. The initiation of these northward migrations coincided with peak nesting activity in adjacent nesting colonies. Data from satellite-linked time-depth recorders attached to two males revealed diel dive patterns in breeding areas and marked differences in diving behaviour between migratory and breeding periods in one turtle. When male turtles were in waters adjacent nesting colonies, their movements differed from those reported for nesting females, with females ranging farther from shore. Our results suggest that male leatherbacks may be vulnerable to entanglement in coastal fishing gear in waters adjacent nesting beaches.

Keywords

Breeding Area Trinidad Diving Behaviour Nearshore Water Nest Season 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

Notes

Acknowledgements

We thank members of the Nova Scotia Leatherback Turtle Working Group for their collaboration, and B. Fricker, H. Fricker, K. Martin, and B. Mitchell for invaluable assistance with fieldwork. We are grateful to C. Harvey-Clark for veterinary advice and W. Blanchard and C. A. Ottensmeyer for technical assistance. We thank M. Lutcavage for initiating tagging work in Nova Scotia. Thanks also to D. Chacón (Association ANAI, Costa Rica) and Nature Seekers (Trinidad) for providing nesting survey data. Funding was provided by National Marine Fisheries Service (USA), Fisheries and Oceans Canada, World Wildlife Fund Canada, Environment Canada, Canadian Wildlife Federation, Wider Caribbean Sea Turtle Conservation Network, Future of Marine Animal Populations, George Cedric Metcalf Charitable Foundation, and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (grants to R.A.M. and scholarship to M.C.J.). This research was conducted under license by Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael C. James
    • 1
    Email author
  • Scott A. Eckert
    • 2
  • Ransom A. Myers
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of BiologyDalhousie UniversityHalifaxCanada
  2. 2. Duke University Marine LaboratoryBeaufortUSA

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