Turning Turtles

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Science  01 Aug 2008:
Vol. 321, Issue 5889, pp. 613
DOI: 10.1126/science.321.5889.613a

The peregrinations of the remaining leatherback turtles in the eastern Pacific are governed by an urge to go south regardless of currents and temperature. Concerned by the plummeting populations afflicted by human predation of eggs and by fisheries-mediated mortalities, Shillinger et al. attached satellite tracking tags to 46 female leatherbacks that nested on Costa Rican beaches between 2004 and 2007. After laying their eggs, the turtles headed south, parallel to the Cocos Ridge. By swimming at speeds sometimes exceeding 60 km per day, they were able to win through the strong oceanic currents that ply the waters between Central America and the Galápagos. Once released from this web, the turtles slowed down and dispersed in the South Pacific Gyre. During February and April when the females set out to sea, their route is highly predictable and hence makes a multinational conservation strategy practical. — CA

PLoS Biol. 6, e171 (2008).

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