Biphasal long-distance migration in green turtles

GC Hays, AC Broderick, BJ Godley, Philip Lovell, C Martin, Bernie J McConnell, S Richardson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

60 Citations (Scopus)


Sea turtles have recently been shown to have the sensory ability to use magnetic information for guidance in the open ocean, although the importance of different potential navigational cues remains unknown. Between May and August 2001, we satellite-tracked green turtles, Chelonia mydas, during their >2000-km postnesting migration from Ascension Island to Brazil, following five individuals both during their transoceanic crossing and while on the Brazilian coast. None of the turtles travelled directly to its final destination but, instead, there were extended (up to 792 km) movements along the coast after the oceanic crossings. The extent of movement along the coast was unrelated to the oceanic crossing route. For example, individuals whose final destination was in the north of Brazil did not follow a more northerly oceanic crossing than those with a more southerly final destination. These observations show that green turtles returning from Ascension Island do not swim directly to their final destination, but instead conduct migration in two distinct phases: a fairly direct open ocean crossing, following which they turn north or south along the coast to reach their final destination. This long-distance migration may therefore be conducted without turtles needing to resort to sophisticated navigational skills. These previously unidentified long coastal movements may heighten the risk of turtles being captured by fishermen. (C) 2002 The Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour. Published by Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)895-898
Number of pages4
JournalAnimal Behaviour
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2002




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