An empirical relationship between sea surface temperature and massive stranding of the loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta) in the Gulf of Ulloa, Mexico

César A. Salinas-Zavala, María V. Morales-Zárate, Raúl O. Martínez-Rincón

Submited: 2019-04-12 14:13:47 | Published: 2020-05-06 12:02:23

DOI: https://doi.org/10.3856/vol48-issue2-fulltext-2348

Abstract


Two mass stranding events of loggerhead sea turtles (Caretta caretta) in the vicinity of the Gulf of Ulloa, Baja California Sur, Mexico, were analyzed during 2003-2006 and 2012-2014. Stranding events were related to the accumulation of consecutive days with lower sea surface temperature (SST) series for the corresponding periods using Pearson correlations. Our results showed that in both periods, a significant cross-correlation was observed between mass stranding and accumulation of consecutive days with temperatures below 18, 17, and 16°C, with a time lag of three to five months. Numerical evidence supports the hypothesis that although the loggerhead turtle mortality is caused by multiple factors under extreme cold events, the environment turns markedly unfavorable for these organisms. Side-effects on health and swimming behavior of the species C. caretta, compromise their ability to avoid obstacles or flee from predators, thus increasing their vulnerability to sickness or lethargy, and possibly leading to the massive stranding of weakened individuals or dead bodies to the beaches of the Gulf of Ulloa. Hence, while SST may not be the direct cause of turtle mortality, it can be a determining factor for the survival of this species.

Salinas-Zavala C, Morales-Zárate M, Martínez-Rincón R. An empirical relationship between sea surface temperature and massive stranding of the loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta) in the Gulf of Ulloa, Mexico. Lat. Am. J. Aquat. Res.. 2020;48(2): 214-225. Available from: doi:10.3856/vol48-issue2-fulltext-2348 [Accessed 31 May. 2020].
Salinas-Zavala, C., Morales-Zárate, M., & Martínez-Rincón, R. (2020). An empirical relationship between sea surface temperature and massive stranding of the loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta) in the Gulf of Ulloa, Mexico. Latin American Journal of Aquatic Research, 48(2), 214-225. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.3856/vol48-issue2-fulltext-2348