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Prey landscapes help identify potential foraging habitats for leatherback turtles in the NE Atlantic
Witt, M.J.; Broderick, A.C.; Johns, D.J.; Martin, C.; Penrose, R.; Hoogmoed, M.S.; Godley, B.J. (2007). Prey landscapes help identify potential foraging habitats for leatherback turtles in the NE Atlantic. Mar. Ecol. Prog. Ser. 337: 231-243.
In: Marine Ecology Progress Series. Inter-Research: Oldendorf/Luhe. ISSN 0171-8630, more
Peer reviewed article  

Available in  Authors 

    Dermochelys coriacea (Vandelli, 1761) [WoRMS]; Marine
Author keywords
    leatherback turtle; Dermochelys coriacea; Bergmann's rule; gelatinous

Authors  Top 
  • Witt, M.J.
  • Broderick, A.C.
  • Johns, D.J.
  • Martin, C.
  • Penrose, R.
  • Hoogmoed, M.S.
  • Godley, B.J.

    Identifying key marine megavertebrate habitats has become ever more important as concern increases regarding global fisheries bycatch and accelerated climate change. This will be aided by a greater understanding of the patterns and processes determining the spatiotemporal distribution of species of conservation concern. We identify probable foraging grounds for leatherback turtles in the NE Atlantic using monthly landscapes of gelatinous organism distribution constructed from Continuous Plankton Recorder Survey data. Using sightings data (n = 2013 records, 1954 to 2003) from 9 countries (UK, Ireland, France, Belgium, The Netherlands, Denmark, Germany, Norway and Sweden), we show sea surface temperatures of approximately 10 to 12°C most likely indicate the lower thermal threshold for accessible habitats during seasonal foraging migrations to high latitudes. Integrating maps of gelatinous plankton as a possible indicator of prey distribution with thermal tolerance parameters demonstrates the dynamic (spatial and temporal) nature of NE Atlantic foraging habitats. We highlight the importance of body size-related thermal constraints in structuring leatherback foraging populations and demonstrate a latitudinal gradient in body size (Bergmann's rule) where smaller animals are excluded from higher latitude foraging areas. We highlight the marine area of the European continental shelf edge as being both thermally accessible and prey rich, and therefore potentially supporting appreciable densities of foraging leatherbacks, with some suitable areas not yet extensively surveyed.

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