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J Exp Biol. 2002 Dec;205(Pt 23):3689-97.

Swim speed and movement patterns of gravid leatherback sea turtles (Dermochelys coriacea) at St Croix, US Virgin Islands.

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  • 1Hubbs Sea World Research Institute, 2595 Ingraham Street, San Diego, CA 92109, USA. seckert@hswri.org


Swim speed, dive behavior and movements were recorded for seven female leatherback sea turtles (Dermochelys coriacea Vandelli 1761) during a single internesting interval near St Croix in the US Virgin Islands. Modal speeds ranged from 0.56 to 0.84 m s(-1), maximum speed range 1.9-2.8 m s(-1). Turtles swam continuously throughout the day and night. There were two swim-speed patterns; the most common was slightly U-shaped, with high speeds at the initiation and conclusion of the dive, and the less common was continuous high-speed swimming. The U-shaped speed patterns were coincident with vertical diving by the turtles, while the second pattern occurred most frequently during the daytime, with the turtle swimming within 2 m of the surface. This latter swim behavior appeared to be designed to maximize efficiency for long-distance travel. The hypothesis that leatherbacks rest or bask at midday during their internesting interval is refuted by this study.

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