New data on the occurrence of leatherback turtles Dermochelys coriacea in the eastern Adriatic Sea
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Abstract . – We review the occurrence of leatherback turtle (Dermochelys coriacea) in the eastern Adriatic Sea based upon museum collections and published literature, and present six new records. Eight out of 13 records (61.5 %) derived from fishery bycatch, with gillnets being a dominant threat to leatherbacks in the region. Findings were concentrated between July and September, with a peak (83.3 %) in the summer. In total, 30 leatherback records exist for the entire Adriatic Sea. The specimens for which data on the size (carapace length, CL) were available were all large immatures and adults (CL > 120 cm). Most turtles (70.4 %) were found in the summer, in the oceanic zone of the southern Adriatic (63.3 %). The number of records in this sub-basin represents 4.5 % of the recorded specimens in the entire Mediterranean. Comparing that percentage to the extent of the area relative to the Mediterranean, the occurrence of the leatherback recorded in the southern Adriatic is up to 1.5 fold higher to that of the entire Mediterranean Sea. That suggests possible relevance of the southern Adriatic Sea as a summer foraging habitat for leatherbacks within the Mediterranean. Bycatch estimates for the Mediterranean and critically endangered status of the species, coupled with the lack of data on the natal origin of the populations emphasize the need for systematic monitoring and data collection in the entire region.