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The endangered Kemp's ridley sea turtle has been found feeding in the Gulf of Mexico, in waters threatened by oil spills, heavy commercial fishing and oxygen depletion.

The Kemp's ridley turtle is the most endangered and smallest hard-shelled sea turtle in the world. A new study released jointly by theU.S. National Park Service and the U.S. Geological Surveyuncovered some details about the turtles' foraging and migration patterns, in an effort to learn more about the species and better conserve it.

Little is known about why the turtles feed in certain areas and how human activities may be affecting the animals' health or behavior. To find out more, researchers analyzed 13 years' worth of satellite tracking data from turtles tagged at nesting sites between 1998 and 2011. The turtles at the two main nesting sites were found feeding at areas off the U.S. Gulf Coast, including near Louisiana and Mississippi.

"Protecting feeding grounds for adult female sea turtles is important for the recovery of the species, and this new information is important for future planning and restoration decisions," Donna Shaver, chief of the National Park Service's Sea Turtle Science and Recovery division at Padre Island National Seashore, said in a statement.

The researchers tagged dozens of adult female sea turtles nesting on the beach at Padre Island National Seashore, located off the coast of Texas. Using satellite telemetry — a method of measuring and transmitting data from remote areas — as well as statistical techniques, the scientists determined where and when the turtles foraged. [continue]

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