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Epic journeys of turtles revealed

10 January 2011

The ocean-spanning journeys of the gigantic leatherback turtle in the South Atlantic have been revealed for the first time thanks to groundbreaking research using satellite tracking which has been published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Experts at the Centre for Ecology and Conservation (Cornwall) at the University of Exeter led a five-year study to find out more about these increasingly rare creatures and inform conservation efforts.

The research has shed new light on the little-known migration behaviour of these animals – following their movement from the world’s largest breeding colony in Gabon, Central Africa, as they returned to feeding grounds across the South Atlantic.

Out of 25 females studied in the new research, three migratory routes were identified – including one 7,563km (4,699 mile) journey straight across the South Atlantic from Africa to South America.

Other routes still involved long distances, as they moved from Gabon to food-rich habitats in the southwest and southeast Atlantic and off the coast of Central Africa. They will stay in these areas for 2-5 years to build up the reserves to reproduce, when they will return to Gabon once again.

Furthermore, the research highlights the potential threats the species may face as they move through the South Atlantic.