Marine Biology

, Volume 148, Issue 2, pp 435–447 | Cite as

Migration of green turtles Chelonia mydas from Tortuguero, Costa Rica

  • Sebastian TroëngEmail author
  • Daniel R. Evans
  • Emma Harrison
  • Cynthia J. Lagueux
Research Article


During 1955–2003, flipper tags were attached to 46,983 green turtles and ten turtles were fitted with satellite transmitters at Tortuguero, Costa Rica. Eight satellite-tracked turtles stayed within 135 km of the beach and probably returned to nest after release. The internesting area is more extensive than previously documented. Post-nesting migration routes of satellite-tracked turtles varied. Seven turtles swam close to the coast and three turtles swam through oceanic waters before moving toward nearshore areas. Sea surface height anomaly maps indicate that oceanic movements were consistent with the southwestern Caribbean gyre. Circling and semi-circling turtles could have been disoriented but submergence and surface times suggest they may have been feeding in Sargassum sp. concentrations. Rapid post-nesting migrations (mean 2.2 km hr−1) ended on benthic feeding grounds in shallow waters (<20 m) off Belize (n=1), Honduras (n=1) and Nicaragua (n=8). The spatial distribution of migration end points (n=10) and tag returns (n=4,669) are similar. Fishermen in Nicaragua target green turtles along migratory corridors and on foraging grounds. Management efforts are urgently needed in Nicaragua, particularly in the high-density feeding areas south and east of the Witties (N14°09 W82°45). The proximity of foraging grounds to the nesting beach (mean 512 km) may permit female turtles to invest more energy in reproduction and hence the Tortuguero population may have greater potential for recovery than other green turtle nesting populations. Recovery of the Tortuguero green turtle population will benefit countries and marine ecosystems throughout the Caribbean, especially Nicaragua.


Travel Speed Green Turtle Marine Turtle Satellite Telemetry Nest Beach 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



Two anonymous reviewers provided feedback that greatly improved this contribution. Funding for the project was provided by the US NOAA/National Marine Fisheries Service, Shark Reef Aquarium at Mandalay Bay, Volvo Ocean Adventure, the Rotterdam Zoo and additional funding for the Sea Turtle Migration-Tracking Education Program ( has been provided by the Disney Wildlife Conservation Fund, Educational Foundation of America and the Kenneth A. Scott Charitable Trust (A Key Bank Trust). ESRI kindly provided ArcView software at a discounted cost. Barbara Schroeder and George Balazs provided invaluable technical advice that made this study possible. Jeff Mangel, Catalina Reyes and numerous research assistants with the CCC’s Green Turtle Program are acknowledged for assisting in the attachment of satellite transmitters and flipper tags. Helen Fazakerly provided useful insights into epiphytic communities associated with Sargassum sp. Tag recapture information was provided by fishers and other observers. Peter Eliazar’s (ACCSTR) facilitation of tag information deserves special mention. This study was conducted under a research permit issued by the MINAE of Costa Rica and complied with all relevant national legislation.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sebastian Troëng
    • 1
    Email author
  • Daniel R. Evans
    • 2
  • Emma Harrison
    • 1
  • Cynthia J. Lagueux
    • 3
  1. 1.Caribbean Conservation CorporationSan PedroCosta Rica
  2. 2.Caribbean Conservation CorporationGainesvilleUSA
  3. 3.International Programs, Marine Program, Wildlife Conservation SocietyBronxUSA

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