Satellite Tracking of Head-Started Juvenile Green Turtles (Chelonia mydas) Reveals Release Effects and an Ontogenetic Shift

Nicole Barbour, Helen Bailey, William F. Fagan, Walter Mustin, Vandanaa Baboolal, Francesca Casella, Tony Candela, Philippe Gaspar, Sean Williamson, Emily Turla, George L. Shillinger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


Juveniles of marine species, such as sea turtles, are often understudied in movement ecology. To determine dispersal patterns and release effects, we released 40 satellite-tagged juvenile head-started green turtles (Chelonia mydas, 1–4 years) from two separate locations (January and July 2023) off the coast of the Cayman Islands. A statistical model and vector plots were used to determine drivers of turtle directional swimming persistence and the role of ocean current direction. More than half (N = 22) effectively dispersed in 6–22 days from the islands to surrounding areas. The January turtles radiated out (185–1138 km) in distinct directions in contrast to the northward dispersal of the July turtles (27–396 km). Statistical results and vector plots supported that daily swimming persistence increased towards the end of tracks and near coastal regions, with turtles largely swimming in opposition to ocean currents. These results demonstrate that captive-reared juvenile greens have the ability to successfully navigate towards key coastal developmental habitats. Differences in dispersal (January vs. July) further support the importance of release timing and location. Our results inform conservation of the recovering Caymanian green turtles and we advise on how our methods can be improved and modified for future sea turtle and juvenile movement ecology studies.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1218
Number of pages21
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 31 Mar 2023


  • generalized additive mixed models
  • green sea turtle
  • head-started releases
  • juvenile dispersal
  • satellite tracking

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