Finding the 'lost years' in green turtles

Insights from ocean circulation models and genetic analysis

Nathan F. Putman, Eugenia Naro-Maciel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Organismal movement is an essential component of ecological processes and connectivity among ecosystems. However, estimating connectivity and identifying corridors of movement are challenging in oceanic organisms such as young turtles that disperse into the open sea and remain largely unobserved during a period known as 'the lost years'. Using predictions of transport within an ocean circulation model and data from published genetic analysis, we present to our knowledge, the first basin-scale hypothesis of distribution and connectivity among major rookeries and foraging grounds (FGs) of green turtles (Chelonia mydas) during their 'lost years'. Simulations indicate that transatlantic dispersal is likely to be common and that recurrent connectivity between the southwestern Indian Ocean and the South Atlantic is possible. The predicted distribution of pelagic juvenile turtles suggests that many 'lost years hotspots' are presently unstudied and located outside protected areas. These models, therefore, provide new information on possible dispersal pathways that link nesting beaches with FGs. These pathways may be of exceptional conservation concern owing to their importance for sea turtles during a critical developmental period.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number20131468
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Volume280
Issue number1768
DOIs
StatePublished - 2013

Fingerprint

Chelonia mydas
Turtles
Genetic Models
genetic analysis
turtle
Oceans and Seas
turtles
genetic techniques and protocols
connectivity
oceans
foraging
sea turtles
Beaches
Indian Ocean
Ecosystems
beaches
Conservation
conservation areas
basins
prediction

Keywords

  • Chelonia mydas
  • Dispersal
  • Distribution
  • Marine turtles
  • Ocean currents
  • Population structure

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)

Cite this

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N2 - Organismal movement is an essential component of ecological processes and connectivity among ecosystems. However, estimating connectivity and identifying corridors of movement are challenging in oceanic organisms such as young turtles that disperse into the open sea and remain largely unobserved during a period known as 'the lost years'. Using predictions of transport within an ocean circulation model and data from published genetic analysis, we present to our knowledge, the first basin-scale hypothesis of distribution and connectivity among major rookeries and foraging grounds (FGs) of green turtles (Chelonia mydas) during their 'lost years'. Simulations indicate that transatlantic dispersal is likely to be common and that recurrent connectivity between the southwestern Indian Ocean and the South Atlantic is possible. The predicted distribution of pelagic juvenile turtles suggests that many 'lost years hotspots' are presently unstudied and located outside protected areas. These models, therefore, provide new information on possible dispersal pathways that link nesting beaches with FGs. These pathways may be of exceptional conservation concern owing to their importance for sea turtles during a critical developmental period.

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