Thermal and trophic habitats of the leatherback turtle during the nesting season in Frenc Guiana

Abstract : Understanding environmental cues determining behaviour and habitat use of species of conservation concern is crucial if one aims at implementing sustainable management of these natural resources. In this way, here, we investigate the thermal and trophic conditions encountered by the critically endangered leatherback sea turtle Dermochelys coriacea during its nesting season in French Guiana where high bycatch rates have been reported. Mean sea water temperatures obtained in situ by animal-borne recorders were 26.6±0.7 °C in the water column, with all but one turtle remaining in water N25 °C during the inter-nesting interval. In terms of prey availability, regular jellyfish stranding events were recorded during the nesting season, on a 1.25-km long section of the nesting beach. The occurrence of jellyfish was supported by benthic trawls performed on the continental shelf, with a total of 45.4 kg of jellyfish collected in 3.5 h exclusively in coastal waters 10 to 20 m deep where water transparency was between 0.8 and 3 m. This is consistent with the at sea distribution area of gravid leatherbacks during their inter-nesting intervals, as they spent almost 70% of their time diving in shallow (b20 m deep) waters in front of the Maroni River estuary. In French Guiana, leatherback's gelatinous prey are thus present in very shallow water close to the nesting site and may be easily exploited by active gravid leatherbacks. This suggests that French Guiana female leatherbacks may be influenced by local trophic conditions and actively prospect productive areas overlapping with local fisheries ground.
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Journal articles
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Submitted on : Tuesday, December 15, 2009 - 4:16:03 PM
Last modification on : Thursday, January 11, 2018 - 6:20:31 AM

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Sabrina Fossette, Charlotte Girard, Thomas Bastian, Beatriz Calmettes, Sandra Ferraroli, et al.. Thermal and trophic habitats of the leatherback turtle during the nesting season in Frenc Guiana. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology, Elsevier, 2009, 378, pp.8-14. ⟨10.1016/j.jembe.2009.06.021⟩. ⟨hal-00441315⟩

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