Foraging and Recruitment Hotspot Dynamics for the Largest Atlantic Loggerhead Turtle Rookery

Sci Rep. 2017 Dec 4;7(1):16894. doi: 10.1038/s41598-017-17206-3.

Abstract

Determining patterns of migratory connectivity for highly-mobile, wide-ranging species, such as sea turtles, is challenging. Here, we combined satellite telemetry and stable isotope analysis to estimate foraging locations for 749 individual loggerheads nesting along the east central Florida (USA) coast, the largest rookery for the Northwest Atlantic population. We aggregated individual results by year, identified seven foraging hotspots and tracked these summaries to describe the dynamics of inter-annual contributions of these geographic areas to this rookery over a nine-year period. Using reproductive information for a subset of turtles (n = 513), we estimated hatchling yields associated with each hotspots. We found considerable inter-annual variability in the relative contribution of foraging areas to the nesting adults. Also reproductive success differed among foraging hotspots; females using southern foraging areas laid nests that produced more offspring in all but one year of the study. These analyses identified two high priority areas for future research and conservation efforts: the continental shelf adjacent to east central Florida and the Great Bahama Bank, which support higher numbers of foraging females that provide higher rates of hatchling production. The implementation of the continuous-surface approach to determine geographic origins of unknown migrants is applicable to other migratory species.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animal Migration
  • Animals
  • Atlantic Ocean
  • Carbon Isotopes / chemistry
  • Conservation of Natural Resources
  • Female
  • Isotope Labeling
  • Nitrogen Isotopes / chemistry
  • Population Dynamics*
  • Reproduction
  • Satellite Communications
  • Telemetry
  • Turtles / growth & development
  • Turtles / physiology*

Substances

  • Carbon Isotopes
  • Nitrogen Isotopes
  • Nitrogen-15
  • Carbon-13