Oceanic residents, neritic migrants: a possible mechanism underlying foraging dichotomy in adult female loggerhead turtles (Caretta caretta)
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To reveal the mechanism underlying intrapopulation variation in the use of feeding habitats (oceanic vs. neritic) by adult female loggerhead turtles (Caretta caretta), we compared telomere length in the epidermis (a proxy for age) between oceanic- and neritic-foraging recruits (first-time nesters). Based on egg-yolk stable isotope ratios, recruits at Yakushima Island, Japan, were clearly divided into small oceanic planktivores and large neritic benthivores. There were no significant differences in telomere length between oceanic and neritic foragers, suggesting that they start reproduction at similar ages. Turtles that experienced faster growing conditions during their oceanic early lives may achieve sexual maturity there, while others may move from oceanic areas into neritic habitats, switching diets from nutrient-poor macroplankton to nutrient-rich benthic fauna in order to compensate for their earlier slow growth rate and continue their sexual development, reaching maturity in neritic waters.