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25.04.07
Tremough scientist reveals turtles' secret journeys

A scientist from the University of Exeter's Tremough Campus, Penryn, has discovered that after laying their eggs, sea turtles travel hundreds of miles to feed at exactly the same sites. The research, funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), shows for the first time that marine turtles appear to be as loyal to specific foraging sites and migratory routes as they are to nesting sites. Published in the prestigious journal, 'Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences', the findings strengthen the argument for the protection of key foraging sites of these endangered species.

"The extent to which turtles showed fidelity to specific foraging sites and routes was a surprise," said Dr Annette Broderick of the University of Exeter's Tremough Campus. "Marine turtles migrate hundreds of miles between breeding and foraging grounds, so it is amazing that they are able to return to exactly the same sites via very similar routes. We do not yet know why they return to the same sites, but these findings give us a much better picture of the behaviour of adult turtles at sea, where they spend the majority of their life cycle."

Scientists have long known that marine turtles return to the same breeding sites each year, but did not know until now that they also revisited foraging sites. Dr Broderick and her team tracked twenty green and loggerhead turtles nesting at two beaches on Cyprus, using satellite transmitters. All females tracked for more than six months remained in the same foraging grounds, moving to deeper water for the winter where they conducted dives of up to a record breaking 10.2 hours. Five females were also tracked when they nested again up to five years later and returned to the same foraging sites.

"There are estimated to be as few as 300 female green turtles breeding annually in the Mediterranean," continued Dr Broderick. "This new information is timely and our research findings strengthen the case for the protection of key migratory and foraging areas. We have shared our findings with the Libyan authorities and are encouraging them to investigate these 'hotspots' further."

One of the major threats to marine turtles globally is fisheries bycatch. Hundreds of thousands of marine turtles die each year as a result of fisheries interactions. Identifying and protecting key habitats is critical for the future of these endangered species.

The £100 million Tremough campus is a Combined Universities in Cornwall initiative of which the University of Exeter and University College Falmouth are two of the founding partners. It is funded mainly by the European Union (Objective One), the South West Regional Development Agency, and the Higher Education Funding Council for England, with support from Cornwall County Council. Set in 70 acres of countryside, but close to the waterside towns of Penryn and Falmouth, the campus offers a lively student community. Building on the success of its existing degrees at the Cornwall Campus in Mining Engineering, Geology, Biology, Geography, English and Renewable Energy, the University is now able to offer degrees in Politics, Law, History and Cornish Studies.

For further information contact Sarah Hoyle, Press Officer at University of Exeter on 01392 262062/07989 446920 or email s.hoyle@exeter.ac.uk.

The Objective One Programme for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly has invested in the Combined Universities in Cornwall (CUC) project, both Phase 1 and Phase 2, through the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the European Social Fund (ESF). The University of Exeter and University College Falmouth are partners of the CUC.

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Clare Morgan
Media Relations Manager
Objective One Partnership Office
Castle House
Pydar Street
Truro TR1 2UD
Mobile: 07973 813647
Telephone: 01872 223439

cmorgan@cornwall.gov.uk

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