Movement patterns of juvenile hawksbill turtles (Eretmochelys imbricata) at a Caribbean coral atoll: long-term tracking using passive acoustic telemetry
Endangered Species Research
Inter-Research Science Center
Understanding the ecological interactions that underlie marine ecosystem functioning requires sufficient data describing habitat utilization by mobile species. Hawksbill turtles are considered key species in coral reef-associated communities, owing to their specific foraging preferences, yet new information is still revealing details of the spatial and temporal aspects of habitat use. We used passive acoustic telemetry to monitor the movements of eighteen juvenile hawksbills (CCLmin 32.0 – 59.7 cm, mean ± s.d. = 43.9 ± 6.7) at a developmental foraging site in the Mesoamerican barrier reef, Lighthouse Reef Atoll (LRA) in Belize (tracking duration 10 to 1,414 days, mean ± s.d.= 570 ± 484). Though specific home ranges were difficult to quantify, several turtles showed high site fidelity over timescales of months to years, with occasional wide-ranging use of the atoll. Diel variation in the number of detections received strongly suggest nocturnal resting. Long term tracking data reveal three degrees of site fidelity across the atoll, based on the number of detection days near individual stations: high residency (n=4), sequential residency (n=5), and transient behavior (n=4). These variations in movement raise questions about the differentiation of foraging habitats and degree of individual specialisation within this population, as well as the influences of microhabitats and human disturbance.
Support was provided by MarAlliance, The Summit Foundation, British Chelonia Group, Wildlife Conservation Society, and the Mitchell-Petersen Family Foundation. We would like to recognize the initial team that captured turtles and collected acoustic data during the 2009/2010 field seasons: Daniel Castellanos Sr., Dan Castellanos, Jason Castro, Darren Castellanos, Demian Garbutt, Alex Garbutt, Mason Cuevas, Kevin Castellanos, Orrington Burgess, Alistair Daly, and thanks to Ivy Baremore for her assistance with data analysis. We would also like to thank the anonymous reviewers for their suggestions in improving the manuscript.
This is the author accepted manuscript. The final version is freely available from Inter Research via the DOI in this record.
Vol. 32, pp. 309-319