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Many broadly distributed migratory species exhibit fidelity to fine-scale areas that support vital life history requirements (e.g., resource acquisition, reproduction). Thus, such areas are critical for population dynamics and are of high conservation priority. Leatherback sea turtles are among the world's most widely distributed species, and their breeding and feeding areas are typically separated by thousands of kilometres. In this study, we analysed turtle-borne video data on daytime feeding rates and energy acquisition in Nova Scotia, Canada, to quantify the importance of this discrete, seasonal foraging area for leatherback energy requirements. Based on daytime foraging only, we estimate that a single foraging season in Nova Scotia could support 59% of a non-breeding leatherback's annual energy budget, and 29% of energetic requirements for a female on a typical 2-year reproductive cycle. However, maximum energy intake rates for leatherbacks are nearly four times lower than those of mammals and birds due the low energy content of leatherbacks' gelatinous zooplankton prey. These results illustrate that high quality, local-scale foraging areas such as Nova Scotia are critically important to the stability and future growth of the leatherback population in the Northwest Atlantic Ocean. Thus, as with other migratory species, efforts to reduce threats and maintain habitat quality in such areas should be high conservation priorities.
This article was published in the following journal.
Name: Scientific reports
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Mergers & Acquisitions
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