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UNH researchers tag first-ever free-swimming leatherback turtles in New England
Date:7/31/2008

DURHAM, N.H. University of New Hampshire researchers have tagged one male and two female leatherback turtles off Cape Cod. They are the first free-swimming leatherbacks ever tagged in New England.

The 700 800-pound leatherback turtles, an endangered species, were tagged July 17, 26 and 29 with GPS-linked satellite tags that transmit nearly real-time tracking data, allowing scientists to better understand these elusive, highly migratory giants to enhance their survivability.

"We investigators spent 20 years attempting to learn about these animals on the high seas and temperate ocean waters, with only slow progress," says UNH research associate professor Molly Lutcavage, director of UNH's Large Pelagics Research Center. "This work will be useful for marine resource managers and others who want to understand how leatherbacks spend their days in the New England region and beyond." Lutcavage notes that this year's success is due to a convergence of people, know-how, and funding that allows researchers access to resources like spotter planes and commercial fishermen.

And, says Kara Dodge, the UNH Ph.D. student leading the tagging effort, the turtles are cooperating. "It's leatherback craziness this year," she says, noting that warmer water temperatures have brought an abundance of jellyfish, the primary food source for leatherbacks.

The $5,000 GPS-linked satellite tags Dodge and her colleagues, including Andy Myers, a postdoctoral researcher in the Large Pelagics Research Center (LPRC), are attaching to the leatherbacks aim to fill the knowledge gap on these elusive swimmers. The tags transmit depth, water temperature and location information daily via satellite, allowing researchers to gain much-needed insight into the movement patterns of the sea turtles. Dodge is also analyzing the data as it relates to oceanographic conditions and jellyfish distribution. The LPRC tagging team has been joined by investigators from the N
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Contact: Beth Potier
beth.potier@unh.edu
603-862-1566
University of New Hampshire
Source:Eurekalert  

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