Feeding behavior of loggerhead and leatherback sea turtles: A study to better understand longline bycatch
Two species of sea turtle, loggerheads (Caretta caretta) and leatherbacks (Dermochelys coriacea) are caught frequently as bycatch in longline fisheries. These fisheries use hooks baited with fish or squid. Yet, leatherbacks feed on gelatinous prey while loggerheads are carnivores. I investigated the responses of these two species to bait odors in controlled laboratory experiments to better understand their feeding behavior and why they interact with longlines. Both species initiated feeding behavior in the presence of squid bait odors and just C. caretta showed feeding behavior with sardine odors; neither responded to mackerel odors. The turtles are hooked differently on longlines. Loggerheads are usually hooked in the mouth while leatherbacks are usually hooked in the shoulder or flippers. Comparisons of prey attack behavior and accuracy in apprehending a stimulus in the presence of waterborne food odors identified species-specific differences that may predispose the turtles to particular kinds of hooking.