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High-resolution movements of critically endangered hawksbill turtles help elucidate conservation requirements in northern Australia


Hoenner, X and Whiting, SD and Hamann, M and Limpus, CJ and Hindell, MA and McMahon, CR, High-resolution movements of critically endangered hawksbill turtles help elucidate conservation requirements in northern Australia, Marine and Freshwater Research, 67, (8) pp. 1263-1278. ISSN 1323-1650 (2016) [Refereed Article]

Copyright Statement

Journal compilation copyright CSIRO 2015

DOI: doi:10.1071/MF15013


Despite being critically endangered, the at-sea behaviour of hawksbill turtles (Eretmochelys imbricata) remains insufficiently understood to support a global conservation strategy. Habitat location and spatial use are poorly documented, which is particularly true for the globally important Australian hawksbill population. We equipped 10 adult female hawksbill turtles nesting on Groote Eylandt, northern Australia, with Fastloc GPS and Argos satellite transmitters. We quantified fine-scale habitat use and area-restricted search behaviour, and located potential feeding and developmental habitats by simulating hatchling turtle dispersal patterns by using a particle-tracking hydrological model. During the breeding season, females mostly remained near their nesting site. Post-breeding, all turtles migrated to foraging sites on the Australian continental shelf, primarily in the Gulf of Carpentaria in coastal seagrass pastures, but also offshore near coral-reef platforms. The distribution of adult foraging grounds was similar to simulated dispersal patterns of hatchling turtles from distant rookeries, thus highlighting the ecological significance of the Gulf of Carpentaria for hawksbill turtles. Although this hawksbill turtle population is likely to be endemic to Australian waters, national and international conservation initiatives are required to mitigate sources of anthropogenic mortality (e.g. illegal tortoise-shell trade, incidental captures in fishing gear, marine debris, seabed mining exploitation).

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:foraging behaviour, turtles, telemetry, Eretmochelys imbricata, home range, particle-dispersal models, satellite tracking, state–space models
Research Division:Biological Sciences
Research Group:Ecology
Research Field:Marine and estuarine ecology (incl. marine ichthyology)
Objective Division:Environmental Management
Objective Group:Coastal and estuarine systems and management
Objective Field:Assessment and management of coastal and estuarine ecosystems
UTAS Author:Hoenner, X (Mr Xavier Hoenner)
UTAS Author:Hindell, MA (Professor Mark Hindell)
UTAS Author:McMahon, CR (Dr Clive McMahon)
ID Code:106520
Year Published:2016
Web of Science® Times Cited:5
Deposited By:Ecology and Biodiversity
Deposited On:2016-02-12
Last Modified:2018-03-29

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