Spatio-temporal foraging patterns of a giant zooplanktivore, the leatherback turtle

Abstract : Understanding food web functioning through the study of natural bio-indicators may constitute a valuable and original approach. In the context of jellyfish proliferation in many overexploited marine ecosystems studying the spatio-temporal foraging patterns of the giant “jellyvore” leatherback turtle turns out to be particularly relevant. Here we analyzed long-term tracking data to assess spatio-temporal foraging patterns in 21 leatherback turtles during their pluri-annual migration in the Northern Atlantic. Through an analytical approach based on the animal's own motion (independent of currents) and diving behavior distinct zones of high and low foraging success were identified. High foraging success occurred in a sub-equatorial zone spanning the width of the Atlantic and at high (>30°N) latitudes. Between these zones in the centre of North Atlantic gyre there was low foraging success. This “ocean desert” area was traversed at high speed by leatherbacks on their way to more productive areas at higher latitudes. Animals traveled slowly in high foraging success areas and dived shallower (17.2±8.0 kmday−1 and 53.6±33.1 m mean±SD respectively) than in low foraging success areas (51.0±13.1 kmday−1 and 81.8±56.2 m mean±SD respectively). These spatio-temporal foraging patterns seem to relatively closely match the main features of the integrated mesozooplankton distribution in the North Atlantic. Our method of defining high foraging success areas is intuitive and relatively easy to implement but also takes into account the impact of oceanic currents on animal's behavior.
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Submitted on : Thursday, March 11, 2010 - 2:18:12 PM
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Sabrina Fossette, Victoria J. Hobson, Charlotte Girard, Beatriz Calmettes, Philippe Gaspar, et al.. Spatio-temporal foraging patterns of a giant zooplanktivore, the leatherback turtle. Journal of Marine Systems, Elsevier, 2010, 81, pp.225-234. ⟨10.1016/j.jmarsys.2009.12.002⟩. ⟨hal-00463173⟩



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