Foraging area fidelity for Kemp's ridleys in the Gulf of Mexico
Article first published online: 28 MAY 2013
© 2013 The Authors. Ecology and Evolution published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.
This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Ecology and Evolution
Volume 3, Issue 7, pages 2002–2012, July 2013
How to Cite
Ecology and Evolution 2013; 3(7): 2002–2012
- Issue published online: 10 JUL 2013
- Article first published online: 28 MAY 2013
- Manuscript Accepted: 4 MAR 2013
- Manuscript Revised: 12 FEB 2013
- Manuscript Received: 4 DEC 2012
- National Park Service
- National Fish and Wildlife Foundation
- Kernel density estimation;
- Lepidochelys kempii ;
- satellite tracking;
- site fidelity;
- state-space modeling
For many marine species, locations of key foraging areas are not well defined. We used satellite telemetry and switching state-space modeling (SSM) to identify distinct foraging areas used by Kemp's ridley turtles (Lepidochelys kempii) tagged after nesting during 1998–2011 at Padre Island National Seashore, Texas, USA (PAIS; N = 22), and Rancho Nuevo, Tamaulipas, Mexico (RN; N = 9). Overall, turtles traveled a mean distance of 793.1 km (±347.8 SD) to foraging sites, where 24 of 31 turtles showed foraging area fidelity (FAF) over time (N = 22 in USA, N = 2 in Mexico). Multiple turtles foraged along their migratory route, prior to arrival at their “final” foraging sites. We identified new foraging “hotspots” where adult female Kemp's ridley turtles spent 44% of their time during tracking (i.e., 2641/6009 tracking days in foraging mode). Nearshore Gulf of Mexico waters served as foraging habitat for all turtles tracked in this study; final foraging sites were located in water <68 m deep and a mean distance of 33.2 km (±25.3 SD) from the nearest mainland coast. Distance to release site, distance to mainland shore, annual mean sea surface temperature, bathymetry, and net primary production were significant predictors of sites where turtles spent large numbers of days in foraging mode. Spatial similarity of particular foraging sites selected by different turtles over the 13-year tracking period indicates that these areas represent critical foraging habitat, particularly in waters off Louisiana. Furthermore, the wide distribution of foraging sites indicates that a foraging corridor exists for Kemp's ridleys in the Gulf. Our results highlight the need for further study of environmental and bathymetric components of foraging sites and prey resources contained therein, as well as international cooperation to protect essential at-sea foraging habitats for this imperiled species.