Nearshore neonate dispersal of Atlantic leatherback turtles (Dermochelys coriacea) from a non-recovering subpopulation

Aimee L. Hoover, George L. Shillinger, Sean A. Williamson, Richard D. Reina, Helen Bailey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


The cryptic ‘lost years’ of sea turtles challenge conservation efforts due to unknown movements and habitat utilisation of young life stages. Behavioural information strengthens dispersal and habitat utilisation models estimating unidentified movements. In this study, leatherback hatchlings were actively tracked with miniature acoustic tags off the east coast of Costa Rica for 83.15 min (± 9.12 SD) to determine their movements and swimming behaviour. Drifters were deployed throughout the tracking process to obtain surface current data. Hatchling (n = 42) over-ground and in-water swimming speed and bearing were calculated. Mean over-ground distance travelled was 2.03 km (± 0.71 km SD) with an over-ground average swim speed of 0.41 m/s (± 0.15 m/s SD). Mean bearing was 108.08° (± 20.19° SD) compared to the 137.56° (± 44.00° SD) bearing of nearshore ocean currents during tracking. Hatchling mean in-water swimming speed was 0.25 m/s (± 0.09 m/s SD). The lower in-water speed suggests hatchlings were advected by the currents, with overall movement strongly influenced by the current direction. This information can be assimilated into broader spatiotemporal distribution models to interpret the influence of directional swimming on ecosystem utilisation and help to achieve informed management decisions across all life stages of the population.

Original languageEnglish
Article number18748
Number of pages10
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2020

Cite this