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Satellite telemetry reveals behavioural plasticity in a green turtle population nesting in Sri Lanka

Abstract

Satellite transmitters were deployed on ten green turtles (Chelonia mydas) nesting in Rekawa Sanctuary (RS-80.851°E 6.045°N), Sri Lanka, during 2006 and 2007 to determine inter-nesting and migratory behaviours and foraging habitats. Nine turtles subsequently nested at RS and demonstrated two inter-nesting strategies linked to the location of their residence sites. Three turtles used local shallow coastal sites within 60 km of RS during some or all of their inter-nesting periods and then returned to and settled at these sites on completion of their breeding seasons. In contrast, five individuals spent inter-nesting periods proximate to RS and then migrated to and settled at distant (>350 km) shallow coastal residence sites. Another turtle also spent inter-nesting periods proximate to RS and then migrated to a distant oceanic atoll and made forays into oceanic waters for 42 days before transmissions ceased. This behavioural plasticity informs conservation management beyond protection at the nesting beach.

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Acknowledgments

The authors thank the Department of Wildlife Conservation (DWC), Sri Lanka for generously granting permission (DWC permit numbers WL/6/3/3/7 and WL/6/1/2/446—ii) for this study and providing invaluable staff time to support the fieldwork. We thank the staff and volunteers of the Turtle Conservation Project (TCP) for their dedicated work at the Rekawa Turtle Sanctuary and Kosgoda, and the Nature Friends of Rekawa for their dedicated support. We also thank Paul Appleby, formerly of the BBC Natural History Unit for his support, enthusiasm and encouragement; Shri Venkat Charloo for his support in the field in Karnataka, and Shri B C Choudhury of the Wildlife Institute of India for reporting the turtle stranding in Agatti. This project would not have gone ahead without the financial support of the Blue Reef Aquarium in Tynemouth, The Deep aquarium in Hull, the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), the European Social Fund, Hurtigruten, the UNEP-CMS IOSEA Secretariat and the Marine Conservation Society (MCS). This manuscript was greatly improved by comments received from Graeme Hayes, the Editor and an anonymous reviewer.

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Correspondence to Peter Bradley Richardson.

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Communicated by J. D. R. Houghton.

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Richardson, P.B., Broderick, A.C., Coyne, M.S. et al. Satellite telemetry reveals behavioural plasticity in a green turtle population nesting in Sri Lanka. Mar Biol 160, 1415–1426 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00227-013-2194-8

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Keywords

  • Green Turtle
  • Nest Season
  • Marine Turtle
  • Nest Beach
  • Curve Carapace Length