Satellite telemetry reveals space use of diamondback terrapins

Animal Biotelemetry
By: , and 



Movement and space use information of exploited and imperiled coastal species is critical to management and conservation actions. While satellite telemetry has been successfully used to document movements of marine turtles, the large tag sizes available have limited use on smaller turtle species. We used small Argos-based satellite tags to document movement patterns of diamondback terrapins (Malaclemys terrapin), the only estuarine turtle species in North America. Movement data from ten terrapins in St. Joseph Bay, Florida were gathered between July 13, 2018 and July 22, 2021. We estimated seasonal space use using the daily locations generated from a Bayesian hierarchical state-space model to calculate minimum convex polygons (95% MCP) and kernel density estimates (50% and 95% KDE). Mean tracking duration was 125 days and mean home range size was 9.4 km2 (95% MCP) and 8.1 km2 (95% KDE). Seagrass habitat comprised 55.8% of all home ranges on average, whereas salt marsh comprised a mean of 3.0%. Mean elevation used by terrapins was − 0.13 m (95% MCP) and -0.35 m (95% KDE). Satellite telemetry provided broad-scale spatiotemporal movement and space use data; however, Argos error produced considerable noise relative to true terrapin movements given their size, speed, and behavior. Terrapin home ranges were greater than previously reported and three of the ten terrapins exhibited repeated long-distance, directed movements within the bay. Small patches of salt marsh habitat were centralized within home ranges, despite comprising only a small percentage for each terrapin. Moreover, the percentage of salt marsh present in each core use area was positively correlated with terrapin mass. Although considered an estuarine species, seagrass habitat comprised a large portion of terrapin home ranges; however, our data did not provide the detail necessary to understand how terrapins were using this habitat. As northward-expanding mangroves continue to infringe upon salt marsh habitat, there is potential for negative impacts to terrapin populations across the northern Gulf of Mexico. As salt marsh habitat continues to be infringed upon by northward-expanding mangroves impacts to terrapins across the northern Gulf of Mexico.

Study Area

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Satellite telemetry reveals space use of diamondback terrapins
Series title Animal Biotelemetry
DOI 10.1186/s40317-023-00354-x
Volume 11
Year Published 2023
Language English
Publisher Springer
Contributing office(s) Wetland and Aquatic Research Center
Description 42, 12 p.
Country United States
State Florida
Other Geospatial St. Joseph Bay
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