Lost at sea: genetic, oceanographic and meteorological evidence for storm-forced dispersal.

Department of Biosciences, College of Science, Swansea University, Swansea SA2 8PP, UK.
Journal of The Royal Society Interface (Impact Factor: 3.86). 02/2012; 9(73):1725-32. DOI: 10.1098/rsif.2011.0788
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT For many species, there is broad-scale dispersal of juvenile stages and/or long-distance migration of individuals and hence the processes that drive these various wide-ranging movements have important life-history consequences. Sea turtles are one of these paradigmatic long-distance travellers, with hatchlings thought to be dispersed by ocean currents and adults often shuttling between distant breeding and foraging grounds. Here, we use multi-disciplinary oceanographic, atmospheric and genetic mixed stock analyses to show that juvenile turtles are encountered 'downstream' at sites predicted by currents. However, in some cases, unusual occurrences of juveniles are more readily explained by storm events and we show that juvenile turtles may be displaced thousands of kilometres from their expected dispersal based on prevailing ocean currents. As such, storms may be a route by which unexpected areas are encountered by juveniles which may in turn shape adult migrations. Increased stormy weather predicted under climate change scenarios suggests an increasing role of storms in dispersal of sea turtles and other marine groups with life-stages near the ocean surface.

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May 26, 2014