This sea turtle, although a protected species, is threatened by human activity: it ingests plastics, get accidentally caught in fishing nets, sees its egg-laying sites destroyed and its adults hunted illegally for their meat and their eggs. Female turtles return to the same beach every two to three years to lay their eggs. What happens in the interval remains a mystery.
It is sometimes possible to spot them offshore in the North Atlantic. Some even swim to very high latitudes (Canada) in search of their favorite food (principally jellyfish). Argos beacons have recently revealed that some females were swimming in two principal directions: the north as would be expected, but also towards the African coast east of French Guiana.
The question is whether these locations represent two distinct feeding areas or simply an extra stopover in their migration to the far north.
Several French and Belgian scientists (University of Paris-Sud and the Laboratory for Oceanology of the University of Liège, respectively) have studied the question, in particular the carbon and nitrogen isotope ratios (d13C and d15N) in the blood and eggs of these turtles. Isotope ratios are indeed significant dietary markers and indicate, if conditions are favorable, the diet of the animals in recent days, weeks or months, depending on the tissue analyzed.
These analyses, published in this week’s PLoS ONE, are the culmination of long and painstaking fieldwork carried out by the team from the University of Paris-Sud in Guiana. Researchers worked around the clock spotting the turtles, identifying them thanks to their tags (electronic chips serving to identify the animals), and taking blood and egg samples. Some of the sampled females had laid their eggs on the same beach two years previously, others three.
Analysis of the samples showed that the carbon and nitrogen isotrope ratios were different for each group, which suggests that the turtles had had a different diet before laying their eggs. These isotope ratios (especially the carbon ratios) are indicative of a dichotomy in the feeding areas of the two groups: one fed in the high latitudes of the North Atlantic's pelagic zone, the other in the low latitudes of the North Atlantic off the African and Iberian coasts. The existence of these two distinct feeding areas remains to be confirmed over the long run (through the observation of sea turtles), but these preliminary results already show how urgent it is to determine the precise geographical feeding areas used by the leatherback turtles as well as the duration of their visit during the interval between egg-layings.
The fact that leatherback turtles use two distinct feeding areas over a long period has major implications as far as their preservation is concerned. If one of these two habitats were to be damaged because of overfishing, pollution, sea traffic, etc, this could have dramatic repercussions on the survival of the species.
Andrew Hyde | alfa
Successful calculation of human and natural influence on cloud formation
04.11.2016 | Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main
Invasive Insects Cost the World Billions Per Year
04.10.2016 | University of Adelaide
Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.
The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...
Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water
In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
05.12.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering
05.12.2016 | Materials Sciences
05.12.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering