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
Robotic fish to replace animal testing
17.06.2019 | Otto-von-Guericke-Universität Magdeburg
Marine oil snow
12.06.2019 | University of Delaware
The well-known representation of chemical elements is just one example of how objects can be arranged and classified
The periodic table of elements that most chemistry books depict is only one special case. This tabular overview of the chemical elements, which goes back to...
Light can be used not only to measure materials’ properties, but also to change them. Especially interesting are those cases in which the function of a material can be modified, such as its ability to conduct electricity or to store information in its magnetic state. A team led by Andrea Cavalleri from the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter in Hamburg used terahertz frequency light pulses to transform a non-ferroelectric material into a ferroelectric one.
Ferroelectricity is a state in which the constituent lattice “looks” in one specific direction, forming a macroscopic electrical polarisation. The ability to...
Researchers at TU Graz calculate the most accurate gravity field determination of the Earth using 1.16 billion satellite measurements. This yields valuable knowledge for climate research.
The Earth’s gravity fluctuates from place to place. Geodesists use this phenomenon to observe geodynamic and climatological processes. Using...
Discovery by Brazilian and US researchers could change the classification of two species, which appear more akin to jellyfish than was thought.
The tube anemone Isarachnanthus nocturnus is only 15 cm long but has the largest mitochondrial genome of any animal sequenced to date, with 80,923 base pairs....
Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden, have discovered a completely new way of capturing, amplifying and linking light to matter at the nanolevel. Using a tiny box, built from stacked atomically thin material, they have succeeded in creating a type of feedback loop in which light and matter become one. The discovery, which was recently published in Nature Nanotechnology, opens up new possibilities in the world of nanophotonics.
Photonics is concerned with various means of using light. Fibre-optic communication is an example of photonics, as is the technology behind photodetectors and...
29.04.2019 | Event News
17.04.2019 | Event News
15.04.2019 | Event News
18.06.2019 | Life Sciences
18.06.2019 | Life Sciences
18.06.2019 | Life Sciences