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East Falmouth, MA, United States

Smolowitz R.J.,Coonamessett Farm Foundation Inc. | Patel S.H.,Coonamessett Farm Foundation Inc. | Haas H.L.,Northeast Fisheries Science Center Woods Hole | Miller S.A.,Coonamessett Farm Foundation Inc.
Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology | Year: 2015

This study represents the first documented use of a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) to actively track sea turtles in situ. From 2008 to 2014, an ROV was deployed to track the at-sea behavior of loggerhead turtles in the Northwest Atlantic Ocean. Seventy turtles were tracked, totaling 44.7. h of direct turtle footage. For all attempts, usable video with a turtle retained in view for a minimum of 30. s, was produced at a rate of 43.5% of effort. Turtles were first spotted from the boat, and then when the turtle was within ~. 50. m of the boat, the ROV was deployed to track the turtle for as long as possible. Tracking durations reached up to 426.1. min. Tracked turtles often remained within ~. 10. m of the surface; however loggerheads were tracked to the seafloor on 12 occasions. Turtles were filmed foraging both pelagically and benthically, even though bottom temperatures reached as low as 7.1. °C. A range of inter- and intra-species interactions were also captured. Several varieties of fish remained associated with individual turtles for extended periods of time, even during benthic foraging dives. Additionally, a variety of social interactions between loggerheads were documented. Generally these interactions were filmed occurring near the ocean surface. Overall, using the ROV provided great insight into loggerhead at-sea behavior, otherwise unattainable using previously established techniques. © 2015.

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