Marine Biology

, Volume 156, Issue 9, pp 1827–1839 | Cite as

Post-nesting migrations of loggerhead sea turtles in the Gulf of Mexico: dispersal in highly dynamic conditions

  • Charlotte Girard
  • Anton D. TuckerEmail author
  • Beatriz Calmettes
Original Paper


This study is the first report of post-nesting migrations of loggerhead sea turtles (Caretta caretta) nesting in Sarasota County (Florida, USA), their most important rookery in the Gulf of Mexico (GOM). In total, 28 females (curved carapace length CCL between 82.2 and 112.0 cm) were satellite-tracked between May 2005 and December 2007. Post-nesting migrations were completed in 3–68 days (mean ± SD = 23 ± 16 days). Five different migration patterns were observed: six turtles remained in the vicinity of their nesting site while the other individuals moved either to the south-western part of the Florida Shelf (n = 9 turtles), the Northeast GOM (n = 2 turtles), the South GOM (Yucatán Shelf and Campeche Bay, Mexico, and Cuba; n = 5 turtles) or the Bahamas (n = 6 turtles). In average, turtles moved along rather straight routes over the continental shelf but showed more indirect paths in oceanic waters. Path analyses coupled with remote sensing oceanographic data suggest that most of long-distance migrants reached their intended foraging destinations but did not compensate for the deflecting action of ocean currents. While six out of seven small individuals (CCL < 90 cm) remained on the Florida Shelf, larger individuals showed various migration strategies, staying on the Florida Shelf or moving to long-distance foraging grounds. This study highlights the primary importance the Western Florida Shelf in the management of the Florida Nesting Subpopulation, as well as the need of multi-national effort to promote the conservation of the loggerhead turtle in the Western Atlantic.


Green Turtle Loggerhead Turtle Nest Beach Florida Current Florida Shelf 
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.



We thank the Mote Scientific Foundation, Norcross Wildlife Foundation, Sarasota County Environmental Services, Comerica, Suntrust, the Community Foundation of Greater Lakeland, and West Marine of Sarasota, New Canaan County School/Jeniam Foundation, Wooster and Curtis Schools, the Samek family and V. Miller for support and funding. The 2007 tracking study was partly supported by grant 07-024R “Clutch frequency of Loggerheads” from the Sea Turtle Grants Program. C.G. benefited from a grant by the Centre National d’Études Spatiales (CNES, French spatial agency). Altimeter products used are produced by Salto/Duacs and distributed by Aviso, with support from the CNES. Wind stress were obtained from CERSAT at IFREMER (Plouzané, France) and from the ECMWF Centre. Animal handling was in accordance with IACUC permit 07-04-AT1 and Marine Turtle Permit #126 from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. We thank P. Gaspar for his useful comments on the manuscript.

Supplementary material

227_2009_1216_MOESM1_ESM.gif (5 mb)
ESM S1. Post-nesting migration of turtle FL06-1 with respect to surface currents. The turtle left Casey Key (Sarasota County, Florida) on 7 July 2006 and reached the Florida Keys 40 days later. Black squares highlight daily locations along the turtle’s track. Arrows represent surface currents (see material and methods) and background colors the sea surface height. It is worth noting that when the turtle reached oceanic waters, she faced an anti-cyclonic eddy originating from the Loop Current. (GIF 5083 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Charlotte Girard
    • 1
    • 2
  • Anton D. Tucker
    • 3
    Email author
  • Beatriz Calmettes
    • 2
  1. 1.Département Ecologie, Physiologie et Ethologie, ULP, CNRSIPHCStrasbourgFrance
  2. 2.Collecte Localisation Satellites, Direction Océanographie SpatialeRamonville St AgneFrance
  3. 3.Mote Marine LaboratorySarasotaUSA

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