MOVEMENTS, HOME RANGES, AND HABITAT USE OF JUVENILE GREEN TURTLES IN SANTA ELENA BAY, MATAPALITO BAY, AND LEONCILLOS BAY IN COSTA RICA
This study monitored daily and seasonal locations of juvenile green turtles in three coastal bays of northwest Costa Rica, determining their home ranges and assessing their habitat use. My objective was to produce insights which might help future Pacific Ocean green turtle conservation efforts.
I tracked 14 juvenile green turtles for 51-629 days using acoustic transmitters (VECOM v16) and 12 acoustic receivers (VECOM VR2Tx and VR2W) in 5 study area habitats: sandy areas, reef patches, macroalgae, rocky reefs, and mangroves. I divided these 14 turtles into large (equal to or larger than 65 cm CCL) and small (smaller than 65 cm CCL) size classes so I could highlight any changes as they grew toward adulthood.
Both the large and small size turtles used habitats differently during the dry and rainy seasons. During the dry season, the large juveniles had a High Detection Rate (HDR) of 40% in the macroalgae area. During the rainy season, their HDR was 33% in the reef patch area. The small juveniles had their HDR in the reef patch area during both seasons: 33% in the dry season and 43% in the rainy season. The mean home range for the 14 turtles was 1.96 km²; their core use area was 0.19 km2. I saw no connection between body size and home range. The HDR findings suggest that juvenile green turtles preferred reef patches, rocky reefs, and macroalgae habitat types. The large juveniles prefer vegetation areas more as they grew; similar to that of adult green turtles. Some turtles moved between Matapalito Bay and Santa Elena Bay and along the coast to small bays east of Matapalito Bay. Travel speed varied between 0.23 km/h and 12.90 km/h with a mean of 1.57 km/h.
My findings highlight certain habitat areas preferred by Pacific juvenile green turtles. This can guide conservationists in identifying and protecting similar habitats in other inshore Pacific bays in Central America. By protecting habitat areas that are important for juvenile green turtles, this can help rebuild the green turtle population in the Pacific Ocean.
Global Cause Foundation
The Leatherback Trust
- Master of Science
- Biological Sciences
- Fort Wayne