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Unusual cold-stunning event of green turtles in Uruguay

Unusual cold-stunning event of green turtles in Uruguay

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Published by Karumbé
Unusual cold-stunning event of green turtles in Uruguay

Baltimore 2013
Unusual cold-stunning event of green turtles in Uruguay

Baltimore 2013

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Categories:Types, Research
Published by: Karumbé on Jun 09, 2013
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G.  Vélez-­‐Rubio1,2,  A.  Estrades1,  V.  Ferrando1,  J.  Tomás2     1Karumbé,  Avda.  Gral.

 Rivera  3245,  CP  11200,  Montevideo,  URUGUAY  (gabriela.velez@uv.es)   2InsHtuto  Cavanilles,  Universidad  de  Valencia  Apdo.  22085,  E-­‐46071  Valencia,  SPAIN.    

•  Hypothermic,   or   cold-­‐stunning,   occurs   when   a   sea   turtle   is   abruptly   exposed   to   cold   water,   normally   as   a   result   of  unusual  cold  weather  or  sudden  cold  fronts,  and  it  cannot  compensate  fast  enough  to  avoid  a  sudden  drop  in   body   temperature   (Witherington   &   Ehrhart,   1989),   when   sea   turtles   trapped   in   cold   waters   may   become   lethargic  and  buoyant,  floaHng  at  the  surface  (Milton  &  Lutz  2003)  and  the  effect  of  the  winds  on  the  sea  surface   could  cause  sea  turtle  mass  strandings.     •  In  Uruguayan  coastal  waters,  the  hibernaHon  strategy  postulated  by  Felger  et  al.  (1976)  has  been  described  as  a   survival   strategy   of   juvenile   green   turtles   (Chelonia   mydas)   to   tolerate   low   temperatures   during   the   austral   winter  (Marqnez-­‐Souza  et  al.  2011).  It  is  known  that  some  green  turtles  remain  in  the  area  during  the  coldest   months,   as   reflected   by   stranding   events   (Vélez-­‐Rubio   2011),   radio   telemetry,   in   water   surveys   and   satellite   telemetry.   •  In  the  present  study  we  report  a   green  turtle  mass  stranding  event  occurred  in  Uruguay  in   July  2012  due  to  a   sudden  dramaHc  decrease  of  sea  surface  temperatures.  


•  Karumbé  recorded  previous  cold-­‐stunned  sea  turtles  in  the  period  of  the  last  12  years  (Fig.  4)  but  the  2012   event   has   been   the   one   with   the   highest   number   of   turtles   stranded   recorded.   No   other   species   stranded   during  those  days.   •  Ninety  juvenile  green  turtle  strandings  were  recorded  in  the  Uruguayan  coast  from  the  13th  to  25th  of  July  2012,   being  the  15th,  16th  and  the  17th  the  days  with  the  highest  number  of  strandings.  Most  of  them  were  recorded  in   the   external   estuarine   zone   (departments   of   Canelones   and   Maldonado,   Fig.   1).   Twenty   of   the   turtles   were   found   dead.   The   others   were   sent   to   Karumbé   RehabilitaHon   Center   in   Montevideo   and   other   centers   for   recovery.  
SST  (ºC)  

Fig.  1:  Map  of  Uruguay.  IEZ  (inner  estuarine  zone),  OEZ  (outer  estuarine  zone)  and  OZ  (oceanic  zone).  The  green  turtle   mass  stranding  (big  red  point)  occurred  in  Punta  del  Este.  Small  red  points  indicate  solitaries  green  turtles  strandings.  


Fig.  2:  Daily  sea  surface  temperature  during  July  in  the  three  areas  that  we  divided  the  Uruguayan  coast:  IEZ  (Inner  estuarine   zone)  in  green,  OEZ  (Outer  estuarine  zone)  in  red,  AZ  (AtlanHc  zone)  in  blue.  Note  that  the  highest  temperatures  in  the  IEZ   correspond  to  the  areas  well  inside  the  Rio  de  la  Plata  estuary.  

Fig.  4:  Two  stranded  green  turtles.  Note   the  week  physical  condiHon.  

Fig.  5:  Green  turtles  in  Karumbé  RehabilitaHon  center  in  Montevideo.  

•  Most   of   the   35   turtles   at   the   Karumbé   center   appeared   to   be   in   good   physical   condiHon   but   half   of   them   presented   floaHng   problems,   pneumonia,   skin   infecHon  diseases  and  sepHcemia  (Fig.5).   •  All   the   individuals   were   juveniles   (mean±   SD   curved   carapace   length,   notch   to   Hp     [CCLn-­‐t]=  39.9±  3.96  cm).     •  Karumbé   realesed   31   of   these   turtles   (Fig.  6).  

•  During   July  2012  record-­‐breaking  cold  weather   occurred   throughout   Uruguay   (Fig.   2).   The   seawater   surface   temperatures   went   down   under   10   degrees   Celsius   (°C),   normally   the   seawater  mean  temperature  varies  between  11   to  12  °C  in  this  month.   •    From   12th   to   19th   of   July   in   the   Rio   de   la   Plata   estuarine  influence  zone  of  the  Uruguayan  coast   the   temperature  dropped  suddenly;  specifically   in   Punta   del   Este   (department   of   Maldonado,   South-­‐East   Uruguay)   and   in   Montevideo   where   decreased   as   low   as   9   and   8.5°C,   respecHvely   (Fig.  3).   •  Prevailing   winds   those   days   were   from   South   and   Southwest.   The   15th   of   July   southwestern   winds  reached  25-­‐30  knots.  

Fig.  6:  Releasing  one  of  the  green  turtles  rehabilitated  from  the  mass   stranding  event  in  Piriapolis  (Maldonado).  

The  abrupt  decrease  in  sea  water  temperature  and  the  prevailing  winds  in  the  area   probably   caused   this   mass   stranding   event   in   Uruguayan   coast.   Monitoring   these   event  provides  a  unique  opportunity  to  obtain  informa]on  about  this  phenomenon   and   the   consequent   impact   on   sea   turtle   popula]ons   that   spent   the   whole   year   in   this  temperate  region  of  the  South  Western  Atlan]c  ocean.  
Felger   RS,   et   al   (1976)   Winter   dormancy   in   sea   turtles:   independent   discovery   and   exploitaHon   in   the   Gulf   of   California   by   two   local   cultures.   Science,  191:  283-­‐85.   MarHnez-­‐Souza  G  et  al.  (2011)  Cerro  Verde,  Uruguay:  a  year-­‐round  feeding  area  for  juveniles  green  turtles?  Thirty  one  Symposium  on  Sea  Turtle   Biology  and  ConservaHon.  InternaHonal  Sea  Turtle  Society,  San  Diego,  USA.   Milton  SL  &  Lutz  PL  (2003)  Physiological  and  geneHc  responses  to  environmental  stress,  pp.  163-­‐197.  In:  Lutz  P.L.  et  al.,  Edits.  The  biology  of  sea   turtle.  Vol  II.Florida:  CRC  Press.   R   Development   Core   Team   (2010)   R:   A   language   and   enviroment   for   staHsHcal   compuHng.   R   FoundaHon   for   StaHsHcal   CompuHng,   Vienna,   Austria.  ISBN  3-­‐900051-­‐07-­‐0.     Stark   JD   et   al.   (2007)   OSTIA   :   An   operaHonal,   high   resoluHon,   real   Hme,   global   sea   surface   temperature   analysis   system.,   Oceans   07   IEEE   Aberdeen,  conference  proceedings.  Marine  challenges:  coastline  to  deep  sea.  Aberdeen,  Scotland.IEEE.     Vélez-­‐Rubio  G  (2011)  Estudio  espacio  temporal  de  los  varamientos  de  tortugas  marinas  en  Uruguay.  Tesis  de  maestria.  Universidad  de  Valencia.   Verspeek  J.  A  at  al.  (2009),  ValidaHon  and  calibraHon  of  ASCAT  using  CMOD5.n,  IEEE  Trans.  Geosci.  Remote  Sens.,  48,  1,  386-­‐395.   Witherington  B.e.  &  ehrhart  l.m  (1989)  Hypothermic  stunning  and  mortality  ofmarine  turtles  in  the  Indian  River  lagoon  sisytem,  Florida.  Copeia  

Fig.   3:   Sea   surface   temperature   during   July   2013.   Maps   show  the  influence  of  the  Malvina´s  current  that  favours   the   entrance   of   cold   water   in   the   Rio   de   la   Plata   area.   Note  lower  temperatures  in  the  central  map.  

Authors   are   really   grateful   to   all   Karumbé   members   and   volunteers   who   once   formed   part   of   the   NGO.   Thanks   also   to   all   the   persons   (fishermen,   naval   prefecture,   life   guard   service,   rangers,   civil   organizaHons,  ciHzens).  Authors  wish  to  thank  to  the  Marine  Zoology   Unit   of   the   University   of   Valencia   in   the   last   part   of   this   work.   JT   is   supported   by   project   CGL2011-­‐30413   of   the   Spanish   Ministry   of   Economy  and  compeHHveness.      

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