CIE Spotlight: Fastloc-GPS reveals daytime departure and arrival during long-distance migration and the use of different resting strategies in sea turtles

AuthorsAntoine M. DujonGail SchofieldRebecca E. LesterNicole Esteban, Graeme C. Hays

Source: Marine Biology

Brief summary of the paper: Determining the time of day that animals initiate and end migration, as well as variation in diel movement patterns during migration, provides insights into the types of strategy used to maximise energy efficiency and ensure successful completion of migration. However, obtaining this level of detail has been difficult for long-distance migratory marine species. Thus, we investigated whether the large volume of highly accurate locations obtained by Argos-linked Fastloc-GPS transmitters could be used to identify the time of day that adult green (n = 8 turtles, 9487 locations) and loggerhead (n = 46 turtles, 47,588 locations) sea turtles initiate and end migration, along with potential resting strategies during migration.

We found that departure from and arrival at breeding, stopover and foraging sites consistently occurred during the daytime, which is consistent with previous findings suggesting that turtles might use solar visual cues for orientation. Only seven turtles made stopovers (of up to 6 days and all located close to the start or end of migration) during migration, possibly to rest and/or refuel; however, observations of day versus night speed of travel indicated that turtles might use other mechanisms to rest. For instance, turtles travelled 31% slower at night compared to day during their oceanic crossings.

Furthermore, within the first 24 h of entering waters shallower than 100 m towards the end of migration, some individuals travelled 72% slower at night, repeating this behaviour intermittently (each time for a one-night duration at 3–6 day intervals) until reaching the foraging grounds. Thus, access to data-rich, highly accurate Argos-linked Fastloc-GPS provided information about differences in day versus night activity at different stages in migration, allowing us, for the first time, to compare the strategies used by a marine vertebrate with terrestrial land-based and flying species.