The role of infrequent and extraordinary deep dives in leatherback turtles (Dermochelys coriacea)

Houghton, Jonathan D.R., Doyle, Thomas K., Davenport, John, Wilson, Rory P. and Hays, Graeme C. 2008, The role of infrequent and extraordinary deep dives in leatherback turtles (Dermochelys coriacea), Journal of experimental biology, vol. 211, no. 16, pp. 2566-2575, doi: 10.1242/jeb.020065.

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Title The role of infrequent and extraordinary deep dives in leatherback turtles (Dermochelys coriacea)
Author(s) Houghton, Jonathan D.R.
Doyle, Thomas K.
Davenport, John
Wilson, Rory P.
Hays, Graeme C.ORCID iD for Hays, Graeme C.
Journal name Journal of experimental biology
Volume number 211
Issue number 16
Start page 2566
End page 2575
Total pages 10
Publisher Company of Biologists
Place of publication Cambridge, England
Publication date 2008-08-15
ISSN 0022-0949
Keyword(s) diving behaviour
gelatinous zooplankton
diel vertical migration
Summary Infrequent and exceptional behaviours can provide insight into the ecology and physiology of a particular species. Here we examined extraordinarily deep (300–1250 m) and protracted (>1h) dives made by critically endangered leatherback turtles (Dermochelys coriacea) in the context of three previously suggested hypotheses: predator evasion, thermoregulation and exploration for gelatinous prey. Data were obtained via satellite relay data loggers attached to adult turtles at nesting beaches (N=11) and temperate foraging grounds (N=2), constituting a combined tracking period of 9.6 years (N=26,146 dives) and spanning the entire North Atlantic Ocean. Of the dives, 99.6% (N=26,051) were to depths <300 m with only 0.4% (N=95) extending to greater depths (subsequently termed `deep dives'). Analysis suggested that deep dives: (1) were normally distributed around midday; (2) may exceed the inferred aerobic dive limit for the species; (3) displayed slow vertical descent rates and protracted durations; (4) were much deeper than the thermocline; and (5) occurred predominantly during transit, yet ceased once seasonal residence on foraging grounds began. These findings support the hypothesis that deep dives are periodically employed to survey the water column for diurnally descending gelatinous prey. If a suitable patch is encountered then the turtle may cease transit and remain within that area, waiting for prey to approach the surface at night. If unsuccessful, then migration may continue until a more suitable site is encountered. Additional studies using a meta-analytical approach are nonetheless recommended to further resolve this matter.
Language eng
DOI 10.1242/jeb.020065
Field of Research 069999 Biological Sciences not elsewhere classified
Socio Economic Objective 970106 Expanding Knowledge in the Biological Sciences
HERDC Research category C1.1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal
Copyright notice ©2008, Company of Biologists
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