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Pink spot, white spot: the pineal skylight of the leatherback turtle (Dermochelys coriacea Vandelli 1761) skull and its possible role in the phenology of feeding migrations

Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology

By:
, , , and
DOI: 10.1016/j.jembe.2014.07.008

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Abstract

Leatherback turtles, Dermochelys coriacea, which have an irregular pink area on the crown of the head known as the pineal or ‘pink spot’, forage upon jellyfish in cool temperate waters along the western and eastern margins of the North Atlantic during the summer. Our study showed that the skeletal structures underlying the pink spot in juvenile and adult turtles are compatible with the idea of a pineal dosimeter function that would support recognition of environmental light stimuli. We interrogated an extensive turtle sightings database to elucidate the phenology of leatherback foraging during summer months around Great Britain and Ireland and compared the sightings with historical data for sea surface temperatures and day lengths to assess whether sea surface temperature or light periodicity/levels were likely abiotic triggers prompting foraging turtles to turn south and leave their feeding grounds at the end of the summer. We found that sea temperature was too variable and slow changing in the study area to be useful as a trigger and suggest that shortening of day lengths as the late summer equilux is approached provides a credible phenological cue, acting via the pineal, for leatherbacks to leave their foraging areas whether they are feeding close to Nova Scotia or Great Britain and Ireland.

Geospatial Extents

Additional Publication Details

Publication type:
Article
Publication Subtype:
Journal Article
Title:
Pink spot, white spot: the pineal skylight of the leatherback turtle (Dermochelys coriacea Vandelli 1761) skull and its possible role in the phenology of feeding migrations
Series title:
Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology
DOI:
10.1016/j.jembe.2014.07.008
Volume
461
Year Published:
2014
Language:
English
Publisher:
Elsevier
Contributing office(s):
National Wildlife Health Center
Description:
6 p.
Larger Work Type:
Article
Larger Work Subtype:
Journal Article
Larger Work Title:
Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology
First page:
1
Last page:
6
Number of Pages:
6
Other Geospatial:
Equatorial Pacific Ocean
Online Only (Y/N):
N
Additional Online Files(Y/N):
N