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Breeding loggerhead marine turtles Caretta caretta in Dry Tortugas National Park, USA, show high fidelity to diverse habitats near nesting beaches

January 28, 2015

We used satellite telemetry to identify in-water habitat used by individuals in the smallest North-west Atlantic subpopulation of adult nesting loggerhead turtles Caretta caretta during the breeding season. During 2010, 2011 and 2012 breeding periods, a total of 20 adult females used habitats proximal to nesting beaches with various levels of protection within Dry Tortugas National Park. We then used a rapid, high-resolution, digital imaging system to map habitat adjacent to nesting beaches, revealing the diversity and distribution of available benthic cover. Turtle behaviour showing measurable site-fidelity to these diverse habitats has implications for managing protected areas and human activities within them. Protecting diverse benthic areas adjacent to loggerhead turtle nesting beaches here and elsewhere could provide benefits for overall biodiversity conservation.