Marine Biology

, Volume 156, Issue 2, pp 171–178 | Cite as

Migratory activity by hatchling loggerhead sea turtles (Caretta caretta L.): evidence for divergence between nesting groups

  • Jeanette Wyneken
  • Sheila V. Madrak
  • Michael SalmonEmail author
  • Jerris Foote
Original Paper


The South Florida subpopulation of loggerhead sea turtles (Caretta caretta L.) nests with great fidelity on either the southeast or the southwest coast of Florida, USA. The hatchlings that emerge from those nests must swim in opposite directions and search for different surface currents to migrate away from continental shelf waters. In this laboratory study, we compared the pattern of swimming activity shown by the hatchlings from each coast over the first 6 days of migration. Turtles from both coasts were equally active during their “frenzy” period (the first 24 h of swimming) and during the daylight hours of the 5 days that followed (the “postfrenzy” period). However, the west coast turtles were significantly more active than the east coast turtles during the nocturnal portion of the postfrenzy period. This difference may be related to the greater distance southwest coast turtles must negotiate to locate surface currents for transport out of the Gulf of Mexico and into the Atlantic Ocean basin. These differing behavioral strategies may be genetically determined, as similar correspondence between activity and distance is well known among migratory populations of birds and fish and is often based upon inherited programs of endogenously driven activity. Alternatively, behavioral differences between the two nesting groups could be a manifestation of phenotypic plasticity that arises as the hatchlings respond to unique environmental cues on each coast.


Gulf Stream Green Turtle Nursery Area Marine Turtle 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.



Portions of this study were completed by SVM as a Masters thesis in the Department of Biological Sciences at Florida Atlantic University. Financial support was provided by the Nelligan Fund. The study was approved by the State (Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Turtle Permits No. 73 and 173) and by the University Institutional Animal Care Committee (Protocol A06-08).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jeanette Wyneken
    • 1
  • Sheila V. Madrak
    • 1
  • Michael Salmon
    • 1
    Email author
  • Jerris Foote
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Biological SciencesFlorida Atlantic UniversityBoca RatonUSA
  2. 2.Sea Turtle Program, Mote Marine LaboratorySarasotaUSA
  3. 3.Parks and Recreation, Phillippe Estate ParkSarasotaUSA

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