Title page for ETD etd-09292009-020339

Type of Document Master's Thesis
Author Groshens, Erica B.
URN etd-09292009-020339
Title Internesting and post-nesting movement and behavior of Hawksbill sea turtles, Eretmochelys imbricata, at Buck Island Reef National Monument, St. Croix, USVI
Degree Master of Science
Department Wildlife Sciences
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Vaughan, Michael R. Committee Chair
Fraser, James D. Committee Member
Neves, Richard J. Committee Member
  • Hawksbill turtle
Date of Defense 1993-04-15
Availability restricted

Understanding the movements and behavior of hawksbi1l sea turtles is vital to their protection, but existing data on these subjects are insufficient. The objectives of this study were 1) to monitor internesting movements and surfacing behavior of hawksbill sea turtles nesting at Buck Island Reef National Monument, St. Croix, and 2) to describe post-nesting movements of Buck Island hawksbills.

Surfacing behavior and presence or absence of tagged turtles W(> :-t' monitored 24 hr a day by a computerized tracking system using pulseĀ· coded transmitters. Internesting and post-nesting movements were tracked using satellite transmitters on the ARGOS system. No clear trends were apparent in total time spent at the surface. either during an internesting interval or when comparing day and nigh~ behavior; behavior was turtle and interval-specific (n=3). The number of times a turtle surfaced over an internesting interval also varied among turtles, but all turtles surfaced more frequently at the end of an internesting interval (P < 0.05). No differences were found in the number of times turtles surfaced during the day versus night, with the exception of one turtle which surfaced more frequently during the daytime. Comparisons of day and nighttime activity among turtles revealed that surfacing behavior was similar among the turtles studied with the exception of one turtle that spent significantly more time at the surface than the other turtles during both day and night. Internesting movements were found to be extensive for 2 of 3 turtles tracked t with turtles moving from 197 km to 845 km from Buck Island. The third turtle remained within 1 km of Buck Island.

Tagged turtles left the Buck Island vicinity immediately after nesting for the season. Two turtles tracked with pulse-coded transmitters through the end of their nesting effort were last heard less than 24 hr after laying their last nest. Satellite tagged turtle T3, tracked for 10 months, traveled between the British Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico for 3 months, then became resident off the southern coasts of St. Thomas and St. John, USVI. Turtle T3 left this area occasionally on short-duration excursions, but always returned.

Satellite tagged turtle T8, tracked for 1.5 months, moved to Puerto Rico immediately after completing nesting for the season, and was subsequently located off the coast of the Dominican Republic t St. Vincent (The Grenadines), and the northern coast of Venezuela. A third turtle (TIl) was located only once after laying her last nest; at the island of Anegada, BVI.

Frequent failure to receive locations from satellite transmitters that were known to be attached and functional suggests that turtles may not stay at the surface long enough for transmissions to reach the ARGOS satellites.

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