Marine Biology

, Volume 148, Issue 5, pp 1167–1179 | Cite as

Home range and habitat use of juvenile Atlantic green turtles (Chelonia mydas L.) on shallow reef habitats in Palm Beach, Florida, USA

  • Christopher MakowskiEmail author
  • Jeffrey A. Seminoff
  • Michael Salmon
Research Article


Many animals, including sea turtles, alter their movements and home range in relation to the particular type and quality of the habitat occupied. When sufficient resources are available, individuals may develop affinities to specific areas for activities, such as foraging and (or) resting. In the case of green sea turtles (Chelonia mydas L.), after a number of years in the open ocean, juveniles recruit to shallow-water developmental habitats where they occupy distinct home ranges as they feed and grow to maturity. Our goal was to study the habitat use and home range movements of juvenile green turtles along a shallow, worm-rock reef tract in Palm Beach, Florida. Six turtles, measuring from 27.9 to 48.1 cm in straight carapace length and from 7.2 to 12.6 kg in mass, were tracked via ultrasonic telemetry from August to November 2003. Upon capture, each turtle’s esophagus was flushed via lavage to determine recently ingested foods. In addition, four turtles were recaptured and fitted with a time-depth recorder to study dive patterns. Home range areas measured with 100% minimum convex polygon and 95% fixed kernel estimators varied from 0.69 to 5.05 km2 (mean=2.38±1.78 km2) and 0.73 to 4.89 km2 (mean=2.09±1.80 km2), respectively. Home ranges and core areas of turtles were largely restricted to the reef tract itself, and showed considerable overlap between food and shelter sites. The mean number of dives during daylight hours (0600–1800 hours) was 84±5.0 dives, while the mean during night hours (1800–0600 hours) was 39±3.0 dives. Dives during the day were shallower (mean=3.20±1.26 m) than dives at night (mean=5.59±0.09 m). All six turtles were found to have a mixed diet of similar macroalgae and sponge fragments. Our results reveal that juvenile green turtles occupy stable home ranges along the nearshore worm-rock reefs of Southeast Florida, during the summer and fall. Determining which habitats are used by green turtles will assist conservation managers in their global effort to protect this endangered species.


Home Range Macroalgae Home Range Size Green Turtle Dive Depth 
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.



Financial and logistical support was given by the Florida Atlantic University Center For Sea Turtle Research, the Nelligan Fund, the National Save the Sea Turtles Foundation, and Coastal Planning & Engineering, Inc. We would like to thank the following individuals for their generous contributions to this research: E. Anderson, R. Baron, T. Campbell, K. Floyd, A. Gardner, C. Kruempel, M. Lybolt, A. Marsh, M. Sagristano, M. Simini, R. Slattery, R. Spadoni, and J. Wyneken. All animals were handled in full compliance with IACUC protocol through Florida Atlantic University. Permits to carry out this study were received from the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (TP 073) and the National Marine Fisheries Service.


  1. Addison DS, Gore JA, Ryder J, Worley K (2002) Tracking post-nesting movements of loggerhead turtles (Caretta caretta) with sonic and radio telemetry on the southwest coast of Florida, USA. Mar Biol 141:201–205CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Alcock J (2001) Animal behavior: an evolutionary approach. Sinauer Associates Inc, MassachusettsGoogle Scholar
  3. Bailey JA (1984) Principles of wildlife management. Wiley, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  4. Baillie JM, Hilton-Taylor C, Stuart SN (2004) 2004 IUCN red list of threatened species. A global species assessment. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UKGoogle Scholar
  5. Balazs GH (1999) Factors to consider in the tagging of sea turtles: research and management techniques for capturing and handling turtles. IUCN/SSC Marine Turtle Specialist Group Publication No 4:101–109Google Scholar
  6. Balazs GH, Ellis DM (2000) Satellite telemetry of migrant male and female green turtles breeding in the Hawaiian Islands. In: Abreu-Grobois A, Briseño-Dueñas R, Márquez-Millán R, Sarti-Martínez L (eds) Proceedings of the 18th international sea turtle symposium NOAA Tech. Memo. NOAA-TM-NMFS-SEFSC−436, pp 281–283Google Scholar
  7. Bjorndal KA (1979) Cellulose digestion and volatile fatty acid production in the green turtle, Chelonia mydas. Comp Biochem Physiol 63A:127–133CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bjorndal KA (1980) Nutrition and grazing behaviour of the green turtle, Chelonia mydas. Mar Biol 56:147–154CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Boarman WI, Goodlett T, Goodlett GC (1998) Review of radio transmitter attachment techniques for chelonian research and recommendations for improvement. Herpet Rev 29:26–33Google Scholar
  10. Brill RW, Balazs GH, Holland KN, Chang RKC, Sullivan S, George JC (1995) Daily movements, habitat use, and submergence intervals of normal and turmor-bearing juvenile green turtles (Chelonia mydas L.) within a foraging area in the Hawaiian Islands. J Exp Mar Bio Ecol 185:203–218CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Burt WH (1943) Territoriality and home range concepts as applied to mammals. J Mammal 24:346–352CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Cheng IJ (2000) Post-nesting migrations of green turtles (Chelonia mydas) at Wan-An Island, Peng Hu Archipelago, Taiwan. Mar Biol 137:747–754CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Coastal Planning & Engineering, Inc. (2003) Mid-town beach renourishment and expansion project: pre-, mid-, and post-construction environmental monitoring reportGoogle Scholar
  14. Cohen J, Cohen P (1983) Applied multiple regression/correlation analysis in the behavorial sciences, 2nd edn. Lawrence Eribaum, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  15. Compagno LJV (1984) FAO species catalogue, vol 4. Sharks of the world. Part 2. Carchariniformes. FAO Fish Synop 125:250–655Google Scholar
  16. Eckert SA, Eckert K L, Ponganis P, Kooyman GL (1989) Diving and foraging behaviour of leatherback sea turtles (Dermochelys coriacea). Can J Zool 67:2834–2840CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Ehrhart LM (1992) Turtles of the worm-rock reefs. Florida Nat 65:9–11Google Scholar
  18. Ehrhart LM, Ogren LH (1999) Studies in foraging habitats: capturing and handling turtles. research and management techniques for the conservation of sea turtles. IUCN/SSC Marine Turtle Specialist Group Publication No 4:61–64Google Scholar
  19. Epperly SP, Braun J, Collazo JA (1996) Application of sonic telemetry for identification of critical habitat of sea turtles. In: Keinath JA, Barnard DE, Musick JA, Bell BA (eds) Proceedings of the fifteenth annual workshop on sea turtle biology and conservation, NOAA Tech. Memo. NMFS-SEFSC-387. pp 84–87Google Scholar
  20. Flores P, Bazzalo M (2004) Home ranges and movement patterns of the marine tucuxi dolphin, Sotalia fluviatilis, in Baia Norte, southern Brazil. Latin Am J Aquat Mamm 3(1):37–52Google Scholar
  21. Forbes G, Limpus CJ (1993) A non-lethal method for retrieving stomach contents from sea turtles. Wildlife Res 20:339–343CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Ford RG (1983) Home range in a patchy environment: optimal foraging predictions. Am Zool 23:315–326CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Ginsburg R (2000) Atlantic and Gulf rapid reef assessment. University of MiamiGoogle Scholar
  24. Goldberg WM (1973) The ecology of the coral-octocoral communities off the Southeast Florida coast: geomorphology, species composition, and zonation. Bull Mar Sci 23:465–488Google Scholar
  25. Guseman J, Ehrhart L (1990) Green turtles on Sabellariid worm reefs: initial results from studies on the Florida Atlantic coast. In: Richardson TH, Richardson JI, Donnely M (eds) Proceedings of the tenth annual workshop on sea turtle biology and conservation, NOAA Tech. Memo. NMFS-SEFC-278: pp 125Google Scholar
  26. Hansteen TL, Andreassen HP, Ims RA (1997) Effects of spatiotemporal scale on autocorrelation and home range estimators. J Wildl Manage 61:280–290CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Harris S, Cresswell WJ, Forde PG, Trewhella WJ, Woollard T, Wray S (1990) Home-range analysis using radio-tracking data—a review of problems and techniques particularly as applied to the study of mammals. Mammal Rev 20:97–123CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Heithaus MR, Frid A, Dill LM (2002) Shark-inflicted injury frequencies, escape ability, and habitat use of green and loggerhead turtles. Mar Biol 140:229–236CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Hirth HF (1997) Synopsis of the biological data on the green turtle, Chelonia mydas (Linnaeus 1758). United States Fish and Wildlife Service Biological Report 97–1Google Scholar
  30. Houghton JDR, Callow MJ, Hays GC (2003) Habitat utilization of juvenile hawksbill turtles (Eretmochelys imbricata) in a shallow water coral reef habitat. J Nat Hist 37:1269–1280CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Humphrey SL, Salm RV (1996) Status of sea turtle conservation in the Western Indian Ocean. UNEP Regional Seas Reports and Studies No. 165. IUCN/UNEP, Nairobi, Kenya, pp 162Google Scholar
  32. Kasparek M, Godley BJ, Broderick AC (2001) Nesting of the green turtle, Chelonia mydas, in the Mediterranean: a review of status and conservation needs. Zool Middle East 24:45–74CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Kirtley DW (1966) Intertidal reefs of Sabellariidae (Annelida Polychaeta) along the coasts of Florida. Master’s Thesis. Florida State University, Tallahassee, pp 104Google Scholar
  34. Krebs JR, Davies NB (1993) An introduction to behavioral ecology. Blackwell, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  35. Lagueux CJ (1998) Marine turtle fishery of Caribbean Nicaragua: human use patterns and harvest trends. Doctoral Dissertation. University of Florida, Gainesville, pp 213Google Scholar
  36. Lanyon J, Limpus CJ, Marsh H (1989) Dugong and turtle grazers in the seagrass system. In: Larkum AWD, McComb AJ, Shepherd SA (eds) Biology of seagrasses. Elsevier, Amsterdam, pp 610–634Google Scholar
  37. Limpus CJ, Walter DG (1980) The growth of immature green turtles (Chelonia mydas) under natural conditions. Herpetologica 36:162–165Google Scholar
  38. Limpus CJ, Couper PJ, Reed MA (1994) The green turtle Chelonia mydas in Queensland: population structure in a warm temperate feeding area. Mem Queensl Mus 35(1):139–154Google Scholar
  39. Lowe CG, Topping DT, Cartamil DP, Papastamatiou YP (2003) Movement patterns, home range, and habitat utilization of adult kelp bass Paralabrax clathratus in a temperate no-take marine reserve. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 256:205–216CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Luschi P, Hays GC, Del Seppia C (1998) The navigational feats of green sea turtles migrating from Ascension Island investigated by satellite telemetry. Proc R Soc Lond 265:2279–2284CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Makowski C, Slattery RP, Salmon M (2005) “Shark fishing”: a method for determining the abundance and distribution of sea turtles at reef habitats. Herpetol Rev 36(1):36–38Google Scholar
  42. Marquez MR (1990) Sea turtles of the world. An annotated and illustrated catalogue of sea turtle species known to date. FAO Fish Synop 125:1–81Google Scholar
  43. McNab BK (1963) Bioenergetics and the determination of home range size. Am Nat 894:133–140CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Mendonca MT (1983) Movements and feeding ecology of immature green turtles (Chelonia mydas) in a Florida lagoon. Copeia 1983:1013–1023CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Mortimer JA, Carr A (1987) Reproduction and migrations of the Ascension Island green turtle (Chelonia mydas). Copeia 1987:103–113CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Musick JA, Limpus CJ (1997) Habitat utilization and migration in juvenile sea turtles. In: Lutz PL, Muscik JA (eds) The biology of sea turtles. CRC Press, Boca Raton, pp 137–163Google Scholar
  47. National Marine Fisheries Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (1991) Recovery plan for U.S. population of Atlantic green turtle. National Marine Fisheries Service, WashingtonGoogle Scholar
  48. Ogden JC, Robinson L, Whitlock K, Daganhardt H, Cebula R (1983) Diel foraging patterns in juvenile green turtles (Chelonia mydas L.) in St. Croix, United States Virgin Islands. J Exp Mar Biol Ecol 66:199–205CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Parsons DM, Babcock RC, Hankin RKS, Willis TJ, Aitken JP, R.K. O’Dor RK, Jackson GD (2003) Snapper Pagrus auratus (Sparidae) home range dynamics: acoustic tagging studies in a marine reserve. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 262:253–265CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Pilcher NJ (1999) Turtles turned turtle. Asian Geogr 2:56–69Google Scholar
  51. Renaud ML, Carpenter JA (1994) Movements and submergence patterns of loggerhead turtles (Caretta caretta) in the Gulf of Mexico determined through satellite telemetry. Bull Mar Sci 55:1–15Google Scholar
  52. Renaud ML, Carpenter JA, Williams JA (1995) Activities of juvenile green turtle, Chelonia mydas, at a jettied pass in South Texas. Fish Bull 93(3):586–593Google Scholar
  53. Ridgeway SH, Wever EG, McCormick JG, Palin J, Anderson JH (1969) Hearing the giant sea turtle, Chelonia mydas. Proc Natl Acad Sci 64:884–890CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Schmid JR, Bolten AB, Bjorndal KA, Lindberg WJ, Percival HF, Zwick PD (2003) Home range and habitat use by Kemp’s ridley turtles in west-central Florida. J Wildl Manag 67:196–206CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Seaman DE, Powell RA (1996) An evaluation of the accuracy of kernel density estimators for home range analysis. Ecology 77:2075–2085CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Seminoff JA (2000) Biology of the East Pacific green turtle, Chelonia mydas agassizii, at a temperate foraging habitat in the central Gulf of California, Mexico. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Arizona, Tucson, pp 249Google Scholar
  57. Seminoff JA (2004) Marine Turtle Specialist Group Red List global assessment of the green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas). World Conservation Union (IUCN), Gland, SwitzerlandGoogle Scholar
  58. Seminoff JA, Resendiz A, Nichols WJ (2002) Home range of green turtles Chelonia mydas at a coastal foraging area in the Gulf of California, México. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 242:253–265CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Seminoff JA, Jones TT, Resendiz A, Nichols WJ, Chaloupka MY (2003) Monitoring green turtles (Chelonia mydas) at a coastal foraging area in Baja California, Mexico: multiple indices describe population status. J Mar Bio Assoc UK 83:1355–1362CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Silverman BW (1986) Density estimation for statistics and data analysis. Chapman and Hall, LondonCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Stancyk SE (1995) Non-human predators of sea turtles and their control. In: Bjorndal KA (eds) Biology and conservation of sea turtles. Smithsonian Institution Press. WashingtonGoogle Scholar
  62. Swihart RK, Slade NA (1985) Influence of sampling interval on estimates of home-range size. J Wildl Manage 49:1019–1025CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. van Dam RP, Diez CE (1996) Diving behavior of immature hawksbills (Eretmochelys imbricata) in a Caribbean cliff wall habitat. Mar Biol 127:170–178Google Scholar
  64. van Dam RP, Diez CE (1998) Home range of immature hawksbill turtles (Eretmochelys imbricata L.) at two Caribbean islands. J Exp Biol Ecol 220:15–24CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Wershoven RW, Wershoven JL (1988) A survey of juvenile green turtles and their resting and foraging habitats off Broward County, Florida. Unpublished report to the Florida Department of Natural Resources, Division of Marine Resources, Broward County, pp 1–35Google Scholar
  66. Wershoven RW, Wershoven JL (1992) Stomach content analysis of stranded juvenile and adult green turtles in Broward and Palm Beach Counties, Florida. In: Salmon M, Wynekan J (eds) Proceedings of the 11th annual workshop on sea turtle biology conservation. NOAA Technical Memorandum. NMFS-SEFSC-302, 124–126Google Scholar
  67. White GC, Garrott RA (1990) Analysis of wildlife radio-tracking data. Academic, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  68. Whiting SD, Miller JD (1998) Short term foraging ranges of adult green turtles (Chelonia mydas). J Herpetol 32:330–337CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Witzell WN (1987) Selective predation of large cheloniid sea turtles by tiger sharks (Galeocerdo cuvier). Jpn J Herpetol 12:22–29CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Worton BJ (1989) Kernel methods for estimating the utilization distribution in home-range studies. Ecology 70:164–168CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Zar JH (1999) Biostatistical analysis. 4th edn. Prentice Hall, New Jersey, pp 663Google Scholar
  72. Zeller DC (1997) Home range and activity patterns of the coral trout Plectropomus leopardus (Serranidae). Mar Ecol Prog Ser 154:65–77CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christopher Makowski
    • 1
    • 3
    Email author
  • Jeffrey A. Seminoff
    • 2
  • Michael Salmon
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of BiologyFlorida Atlantic UniversityBoca RatonUSA
  2. 2.Southwest Fisheries Science CenterNOAA-National Marine Fisheries ServiceLa JollaUSA
  3. 3.Coastal Planning & Engineering, Inc.Boca RatonUSA

Personalised recommendations