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Why do Argos satellite tags stop relaying data?
Ecology and Evolution, Volume: 11, Issue: 11, Pages: 7093 - 7101
Swansea University Author: Nicole Esteban
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1. Satellite tracking of animals is very widespread across a range of marine, fresh-water and terrestrial taxa. Despite the high cost of tags and the advantages of long deployments, the reasons why tracking data from tags stops being received are rarely considered, but possibilities include shedding...
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1. Satellite tracking of animals is very widespread across a range of marine, fresh-water and terrestrial taxa. Despite the high cost of tags and the advantages of long deployments, the reasons why tracking data from tags stops being received are rarely considered, but possibilities include shedding of the tag, damage to the tag (e.g. the aerial), biofouling, battery exhaustion or animal mortality. 2. We show how information relayed via satellite tags can be used to assess why tracking data stops being received. As a case study to illustrate general approaches that are broadly applicable across taxa, we examined data from Fastloc-GPS Argos tags deployed between 2012 and 2019 on 78 sea turtles of two species, green turtles (Chelonia mydas) and hawksbill turtles (Eretmochelys imbricata). 3. Tags transmitted for a mean of 267 days (range 26 - 687 days, median = 251 days, SD = 113 days). In 68 of 78 (87%) of cases, battery failure was implicated as the reason why tracking data stopped being received. Some biofouling of the salt-water switches, which synchronise transmissions with surfacing, was evident in a few tags but never appeared to be the reason that data reception ceased. 4. Objectively assessing why tags fail will direct improvements to tag design, set-up and deployment and across studies regardless of the study taxa. Assessing why satellite tags stop transmitting will also inform on the fate of tagged animals, e.g. whether they are alive or dead at the end of the study, which may allow improved estimates of survival rates.
animal movement, Argos, Fastloc-GPS, home range, migration, mortality, satellite tracking,telemetry
College of Science
This work was supported by the Bertarelli Foundation as part of the Bertarelli Programme in Marine Science