CIE Spotlight: Diel and seasonal patterns in activity and home range size of green turtles on their foraging grounds revealed by extended Fastloc-GPS tracking

fredrik-c-antoine-d-and-graeme-h
Fredrik C., Antoine D. and Graeme H.

Authors: Fredrik Christiansen, Nicole Esteban, Jeanne A. Mortimer, Antoine M. Dujon, Graeme C. Hays

Source: Marine Biology (available online 29 November 2016)

Brief summary of the paper: An animal’s home range is driven by a range of factors including top-down (predation risk) and bottom-up (habitat quality) processes, which often vary in both space and time.

We assessed the role of these processes in driving spatiotemporal patterns in the home range of the green turtle (Chelonia mydas), an important marine megaherbivore. We satellite tracked adult green turtles using Fastloc-GPS telemetry in the Chagos Archipelago and tracked their fine-scale movement in different foraging areas in the Indian Ocean.

Using this extensive data set (5081 locations over 1675 tracking days for 8 individuals), we showed that green turtles exhibit both diel and seasonal patterns in activity and home range size. At night, turtles had smaller home ranges and lower activity levels, suggesting they were resting. In the daytime, home ranges were larger and activity levels higher, indicating that turtles were actively feeding. The transit distance between diurnal and nocturnal sites varied considerably between individuals. Further, some turtles changed resting and foraging sites seasonally.

These structured movements indicate that turtles had a good understanding of their foraging grounds in regard to suitable areas for foraging and sheltered areas for resting. The clear diel patterns and the restricted size of nocturnal sites could be caused by spatiotemporal variations in predation risk, although other factors (e.g. depth, tides and currents) could also be important. The diurnal and seasonal pattern in home range sizes could similarly be driven by spatiotemporal variations in habitat (e.g. seagrass or algae) quality, although this could not be confirmed.