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Nesting Gulf loggerheads face offshore risks
Date:7/15/2013

>Researchers used the same statistical technique for analyzing their movements that enabled them to pinpoint loggerhead feeding hotspots at sea last year and, more recently, locate Kemp's ridley feeding grounds in the Northern Gulf by differentiating between behavioral modes. They analyzed where 39 adult female sea turtles went after they nested on beaches in Alabama and Florida between 2010 and 2012 to learn where they spent time in the water during the breeding season before migrating back to sea.

"We were surprised to find a lot of variation in their behavior," said co-author and USGS biologist Meg Lamont. "On average, the tagged turtles visited areas about 33 kilometers (20 miles) from shore and moved about 28 kilometers (17 miles) to nest at another beach. Several of them journeyed more than 200 kilometers (124) miles to nest at additional beaches, while others simply cruised back out to sea after the first nest."

The results of the study explain a mystery that had puzzled Lamont, who has 16 years of data from the St. Joseph Peninsula in Florida showing that few of the nesting loggerheads they tagged returned to nest again on the Peninsula. "We didn't know whether they were dying or simply nesting elsewhere," explained Lamont, "Now we know they aren't as faithful to one nesting site as was once thought."

One of the turtles that Lamont tagged in 2002 appeared at Hart's site in Alabama, nearly a decade later. In fact, the researchers saw several turtles nesting both in Alabama and the St. Joseph Peninsula (roughly 250 miles apart) within a period of just two weeks.

"These data show it is not sufficient to just protect habitat around high density nesting beaches such as the St. Joseph Peninsula because many turtles that nest on the Peninsula use the entire region from the eastern Florida Panhandle to Louisiana," said Lamont.

There could also be fewer female loggerheads nesting in the northern Gulf of Mexico than cu
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Contact: Hannah Hamilton
hhamilton@usgs.gov
703-648-4356
United States Geological Survey
Source:Eurekalert

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