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Study provides new information about the sea turtle 'lost years'
Date:3/6/2014

MIAMI A new study satellite tracked 17 young loggerhead turtles in the Atlantic Ocean to better understand sea turtle nursery grounds and early habitat use during the 'lost years.' The study, conducted by a collaborative research team, including scientists from the University of Miami (UM) Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, was the first long-term satellite tracking study of young turtles at sea.

"This is the first time we were able to show the maiden voyage of young turtles after they left the beach," said Rosenstiel School scientist Jiangang Luo and co-author of the study. "It's like you want to know how your baby is doing when you drop him or her off at the daycare for the first time."

The turtles' at-sea movements were remotely tracked for 27-220 days in the open ocean to better understand their movements, habitat preferences and thermal niche during this early-life stage. The turtles traveled between 200 km to 4300 km (124 - 2672 miles), mainly traveling off of the continental shelf region and occupying oceanic surface waters, where young turtles likely "receive thermal benefits from solar absorption," according to the study's authors. The study also showed that young sea turtles rarely travel into continental shelf waters and frequently leave the currents of the Gulf Stream and North Atlantic Current within the North Atlantic Subtropical Gyre.

The turtle started by riding in the strongest currents in the Ocean, the Gulf Stream, then, the North Atlantic Current. But many of the turtles took a short cut via eddies which span off from the currents to the Sargassum Sea at the center of the North Atlantic Subtropical Gyre, which provide protection, thermal and food habitat for the young turtles.

The 17 loggerhead turtles were collected from nests along the southeast coast of Florida and reared in Florida Atlantic University's turtle laboratory before being released between 3-9 months of age into the Gulf Stream, offs
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Contact: Diana Udel
dudel@rsmas.miami.edu
786-256-4446
University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science
Source:Eurekalert  

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