Long-term residence of juvenile loggerhead turtles to foraging grounds: a potential conservation hotspot in the Mediterranean
P. Casale, Department of Biology and Biotechnologies ‘Charles Darwin’, University of Rome ‘La Sapienza’, Roma, Italy.
- Identifying highly frequented areas is a priority for sea turtle conservation. Although juveniles represent the bulk of the population, a minority of studies have investigated their movement patterns.
- Six large juvenile loggerhead turtles that were found and released in an important foraging ground in the Mediterranean, the Tunisian continental shelf were tracked. Tracking data were obtained via satellite for periods ranging from 120 to 225 days and allowed the identification of high use areas.
- All turtles generally performed apparently non-directed, wandering movements in waters with a wide range of seafloor depths. They showed clear residential behaviour to the region with no evident seasonal pattern. Core areas of residence were in the neritic zone or on the edge of the continental shelf, largely overlapping among individuals, and were much smaller than residential oceanic areas reported elsewhere.
- When integrated into current knowledge, these results suggest an ecological-behavioural model of a gradual shift from a pelagic-vagile to a benthic-sedentary life style with progressive reduction of home ranges.
- They also highlight an area of the continental shelf and offshore waters as potential core foraging ground for large juvenile loggerhead turtles in the Mediterranean informing future spatial management for loggerhead turtles. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.