Posted by Rick Civelli | 02.23.2012 | Turtle Talk

Loggerhead Hotspots Revealed

Loggerhead sea turtles are apparently good at keeping secrets. Their ability to navigate and orient the ocean, while returning to their natal beaches long remained a mystery. Like many species, their juvenile years became known as the “lost years” as scientists struggled to determine where they went. Now recent research from published in Biological Conservation has revealed two previously undiscovered feeding hot spots in the Gulf of Mexico.

Sea turtles may have advanced skills in avoiding detection in the ocean, but the satellite tags that several females were fitted with gave up their secret. Many of the turtles headed for a foraging site off Florida’s Southwest Coast, but several also visited grounds near the northern tip of the Yucatan Peninsula. It is not known what is so attractive about these areas, but knowing that they are important to the turtles could have favorable results, especially in an area with declining loggerhead numbers.

This research marks a new direction in sea turtle conservation. Previous efforts to protect and manage populations focused primarily on their nesting sites. Since this is where turtles spend but the smallest minority of their life, it may not be the most effective strategy. Having seen a turtle lumber across the sand, you are instantly aware that this is not the habitat their long flippers were suited for. Looking at other aspects of their life histories could result in more robust policies and strategies to protect the turtles.