Leatherback Turtles in the Pacific

Most of the current knowledge about leatherback turtles has come from studies on nesting beaches, while very little is known about the turtles in the open ocean. Scientists from the Southwest Fisheries Science Center’s Marine Turtle Research Program use several approaches, including aerial surveys, molecular genetics, and telemetry to identify key foraging areas in the Pacific and to study the movements of leatherbacks at sea. The group has discovered that waters off central California are a critical foraging area for one of the largest remaining Pacific nesting populations in Papua, Indonesia.

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Coastal UpwellingLeatherback Turtles in the Pacific II: Coastal Upwelling and Jellyfish, November 2006

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Leatherbacks are known to migrate to Monterey Bay from Indonesia to feed on jellyfish. The upwelling process that is part of the productive Californian coastal ecosystem provides ideal forage habitat for leatherbacks and other marine life.

The Variable EcosystemLeatherback Turtles in the Pacific III: The Variable Ecosystem, November 2006

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This year, the disruption of the seasonal upwelling process within Californian waters is having an adverse effect on marine life and few leatherbacks have been seen.

New Observations New QuestionLeatherback Turtles in the Pacific IV: New Observations, New Questions, November 2006

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The absence of leatherbacks in Monterey Bay for the first time since the studies began in 2000 raises questions about the patterns of ocean processes, effects of climate change and the fate of the leatherback in the Pacific.

Tagging a turtle with a suction cupLeatherback Turtles in the Pacific V: Suction Cup Tagging

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Researchers use a new method to attach miniature depth recorders and radio transmitter to leatherbacks using a suction cup and gain new insights into the behavior of these animals feeding on jellyfish undisturbed in their natural environment.

Last modified: 2/5/2015