Research yields new information about Greece's loggerhead turtles

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Research yields new information about Greece's loggerhead turtles

January 15, 2017 - 04:28
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A long-running research and conservation project is helping save the loggerhead turtles in Greece.

Loggerhead sea turtle

Since 1983, the Sea Turtle Protection Society of Greece (ARCHELON) has taken efforts to protect loggerhead turtles in and around Greece. As part of a project, scientists from the University of Exeter have tagged and tracked hundreds of turtles in the Amvrakikos Gulf.

"Previous studies have generally involved tagging female turtles on nesting beaches, but that method doesn't give us information on males and juveniles,” said Dr Alan Rees, a Darwin Fellow of the Centre for Ecology and Conservation on the university's Penryn Campus in Cornwall.

"For this research, we studied turtles in their foraging area and used flipper tagging, satellite tracking and genetics to establish where they had come from and where they go when moving from where we found them."

The results of the research was published in the Marine Biology journal. It showed that most of the 700 loggerheads observed in the Amvrakikos Gulf came from nesting populations within 125 miles (200km). Many loggerheads travel far away from where they hatch, but would return to that area to breed.

Thanks to the new data, the scientists found out about a female that swam a distance of more than 1,000 miles (1,610 km), first to Syria and then to Turkey to breed.

“The thing that baffles me is that they generally migrate in the spring but this turtle moved in the summer. It arrived in Turkey in the autumn, stayed over winter then moved to the nearby breeding area the next year,” said Dr Rees, who also works for ARCHELON.

Dr Rees speculated that the loggerhead had left nine months early to ensure that it arrived in time for the breeding season, a sensible move as its original journey would have taken it hundreds of miles out of the way.

"The situation of loggerheads has improved thanks to concerted conservation efforts, but there's more work to do if we want to see continued improvement," he added.

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