Microhabitat selection by sea turtles in a dynamic thermal marine environment

J Anim Ecol. 2009 Jan;78(1):14-21. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2656.2008.01454.x. Epub 2008 Aug 11.


1. Reproductive fitness is often compromised at the margins of a species' range due to sub-optimal conditions. 2. Set against this backdrop, the Mediterranean's largest loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta) rookery at Zakynthos (Greece) presents a conundrum, being at a very high latitude for this species, yet hosting a high concentration of nesting. 3. We used visual surveys combined with global positioning system (GPS) tracking to show that at the start of the breeding season, individuals showed microhabitat selection, with females residing in transient patches of warm water. As the sea warmed in the summer, this selection was no longer evident. 4. As loggerhead turtles are ectothermic, this early season warm-water selection presumably speeds up egg maturation rates before oviposition, thereby allowing more clutches to be incubated when sand conditions are optimal during the summer. 5. Active selection of warm waters may allow turtles to initiate nesting at an earlier date.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Ecosystem*
  • Environment*
  • Female
  • Greece
  • Marine Biology
  • Population Dynamics
  • Seawater / chemistry
  • Temperature*
  • Turtles / metabolism
  • Turtles / physiology*
  • Wind