Tagged turtles and 3D ocean current maps reveal loggerheads loggerhead-ing north

Embargoed until: Publicly released:

International scientists tagged 25 loggerhead turtles as they migrated from Reunion Island in the Pacific and combined their movement data with 3D maps of ocean currents to investigate how the animals navigate on ocean voyages. They found the turtles swim in a straight line at a stately 1.8 kmph, occasionally correcting their course to account for the current. This strategy has been proposed for green and hawksbill turtles before, but this is the first study to use 3D maps of ocean currents to confirm it. It suggests there may be a common navigation strategy adopted by all turtle species.

Journal/conference: Journal of the Royal Society Interface

Link to research (DOI): 10.1098/rsif.2023.0383

Organisation/s: Laboratoire de l’Atmosphère et des Cyclones, France

Funder: This study was funded by the European Union. the Regional
Council of Reunion Island. and the French State under the frame of
INTERREG-V Indian Ocean 2014–2020 research project ‘Sea Turtle
for Ocean Research and Monitoring in the Indian Ocean’ (STORMIO),
as well as by the French Space Agency (CNES) and CNRS
through research projects ‘STORM-SAT’ (TOSCA) and ‘PreSTORM’
(LEFE). respectively.

Media release

From: The Royal Society

Uncovering loggerhead (Caretta Caretta) navigation strategy in the open ocean through the consideration of their diving behaviour

A groundbreaking study has revealed new insights into the navigational strategies of sea turtles during their pre-reproductive migration. Using data from 25 juvenile loggerhead turtles, researchers have uncovered a remarkable map and compass strategy not previously seen in this turtle species. This novel strategy involves straight-line swimming at a steady speed of about 0.5 metres per second, interspersed with occasional course corrections. What makes this discovery even more significant is the methodology used: the researchers considered three-dimensional ocean currents, rather than the more commonly used surface current approach. This novel approach reveals a common, cross-species, open-ocean navigation mechanism and highlights the crucial role of diving behaviour in understanding the spatial ecology of sea turtles. 

Loggerhead-ing north – Sea turtles navigate oceans using their internal ‘map-and-compass’ orienteering abilities. Combining tracking data from 25 late-juvenile loggerhead turtles migrating from Reunion Island in the Pacific Ocean with 3D models of ocean currents, researchers have mapped for the first time how the turtles combine straight-line swimming, with occasional course corrections to account for ocean currents. This strategy, hypothesised in green and hawksbill turtles, may be a common ocean-navigation mechanism across all turtle species. 

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