Activity of loggerhead turtles during the U-shaped dive: insights using angular velocity metrics

by Richard M. Gunner, Rory P. Wilson, Mark D. Holton, Rebecca Scott, Alex Arkwright, Andreas Fahlman, Marie Ulrich, Phil Hopkins, Carlos M. Duarte, Christophe Eizaguirre
Research article Year: 2021 DOI:


Gunner, R. M., Wilson, R. P., Holton, M. D., Scott, R., Arkwright, A., Fahlman, A., Duarte, C.M.,... & Eizaguirre, C. (2021). Activity of loggerhead turtles during the U-shaped dive: insights using angular velocity metrics. Endangered Species Research45, 1-12.


Understanding the behavioural ecology of endangered taxa can inform conservation strategies. The activity budgets of the loggerhead turtle Caretta caretta are still poorly understood because many tracking methods show only horizontal displacement and ignore dives and associated behaviours. However, time-depth recorders have enabled researchers to identify flat, U-shaped dives (or type 1a dives) and these are conventionally labelled as resting dives on the seabed because they involve no vertical displacement of the animal. Video- and acceleration-based studies have demonstrated this is not always true. Focusing on sea turtles nesting on the Cabo Verde archipelago, we describe a new metric derived from magnetometer data, absolute angular velocity, that integrates indices of angular rotation in the horizontal plane to infer activity. Using this metric, we evaluated the variation in putative resting behaviours during the bottom phase of type 1a dives for 5 individuals over 13 to 17 d at sea during a single inter-nesting interval (over 75 turtle d in total). We defined absolute resting within the bottom phase of type 1a dives as periods with no discernible acceleration or angular movement. Whilst absolute resting constituted a significant proportion of each turtle’s time budget for this 1a dive type, turtles allocated 16-38% of their bottom time to activity, with many dives being episodic, comprised of intermittent bouts of rest and rotational activity. This implies that previously considered resting behaviours are complex and need to be accounted for in energy budgets, particularly since energy budgets may impact conservation strategies.


Animal behaviour Angular velocity Accelerometer Caretta caretta Dive type Magnetometer