Overwintering behavior of juvenile sea turtles at a temperate foraging ground

By: , and 



Most freshwater and terrestrial turtle species that inhabit temperate environments hibernate to survive extreme cold periods. However, for sea turtles, the question of whether these species use hibernation as an overwintering strategy has not been resolved (Ultsch 2006). Felger et al. (1976) suggested that sea turtles bury themselves in mud on the seafloor and remain dormant throughout the winter, presumably not surfacing during that time. Additional researchers have described sea turtles in temperatures <15°C as lethargic, mud‐covered and buried in bottom sediment (Carr et al. 1980, Mendonça 1983, Ogren and McVea 1995). However, more recent studies suggest that sea turtles may not be as dormant in cold temperatures as previously suggested (Hochscheid et al. 2007). Resolving this question is difficult due to the unpredictability of winter weather patterns and the cost of advanced tracking tools required to assess these fine‐scale behaviors. However, in January 2018, unusually calm and clear marine conditions coupled with exceptionally cold weather provided us the opportunity to observe and film turtle behavior at a foraging ground in the northern Gulf of Mexico. These images, combined with previously gathered data from vessel‐based surveys and water temperature loggers, have enabled us to piece together one of the most comprehensive views of sea turtle overwintering behavior to date.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Overwintering behavior of juvenile sea turtles at a temperate foraging ground
Series title Ecology
DOI 10.1002/ecy.2439
Volume 99
Issue 11
Year Published 2018
Language English
Publisher Ecological Society of America
Contributing office(s) Wetland and Aquatic Research Center
Description 4 p.
First page 2621
Last page 2624
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