Deep vs shallow: GPS tags reveal a dichotomy in movement patterns of loggerhead turtles foraging in a coastal bay

Movement Ecology
By: , and 




Individual variation in movement strategies of foraging loggerhead turtles have been documented on the scale of tens to hundreds of kilometers within single ocean basins. Use of different strategies among individuals may reflect variations in resources, predation pressure or competition. It is less common for individual turtles to use different foraging strategies on the scale of kilometers within a single coastal bay. We used GPS tags capable of back-filling fine-scale locations to document movement patterns of loggerhead turtles in a coastal bay in Northwest Florida, U.S.A.


Iridium-linked GPS tags were deployed on loggerhead turtles at a neritic foraging site in Northwest Florida. After filtering telemetry data, point locations were transformed to movement lines and then merged with the original point file to define travel paths and assess travel speed. Home ranges were determined using kernel density function. Diurnal behavioral shifts were examined by examining turtle movements compared to solar time.


Of the 11 turtles tagged, three tracked turtles remained in deep (~ 6 m) water for almost the entire tracking period, while all other turtles undertook movements from deep water locations, located along edges and channels, to shallow (~ 1–2 m) shoals at regular intervals and primarily at night. Three individuals made short-term movements into the Gulf of Mexico when water temperatures dropped, and movement speeds in the Gulf were greater than those in the bay. Turtles exhibited a novel behavior we termed drifting.


This study highlighted the value provided to fine-scale movement studies for species such as sea turtles that surface infrequently by the ability of these GPS tags to store and re-upload data. Future use of these tags at other loggerhead foraging sites, and concurrent with diving and foraging data, would provide a powerful tool to better understand fine-scale movement patterns of sea turtles.

Study Area

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Deep vs shallow: GPS tags reveal a dichotomy in movement patterns of loggerhead turtles foraging in a coastal bay
Series title Movement Ecology
DOI 10.1186/s40462-024-00480-y
Volume 12
Year Published 2024
Language English
Publisher Springer Nature
Contributing office(s) Wetland and Aquatic Research Center
Description 40, 13 p.; Data Release
Country United States
State Florida
Other Geospatial St. Joseph Bay
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
Additional publication details