| ||Testudo Cephalo Schneider, 1783|
| ||Testudo Caouana Lacepède, 1788|
| ||Chelone caretta Brongniart, 1805|
| ||Chelonia Caouanna Schweigger, 1812|
| ||Caretta nasuta Rafinesque, 1814|
| ||Chelonia cavanna Oken, 1816|
| ||Caretta atra Merrem, 1820|
| ||Caretta Cephalo Merrem, 1820|
| ||Caretta nasicornis Merrem, 1820|
| ||Chelonia caretta Bory de Saint Vincent, 1828|
| ||Testudo Corianna Gray, 1831|
| ||Chelonia pelasgorum Valenciennes, 1833|
| ||Chelonia cephalo Temminck and Schlegel, 1834|
| ||Chelonia (Caretta) cephalo Lesson, 1834|
| ||Chelonia caouana Duméril and Bibron, 1835|
| ||Chelonia (Thallassochelys) Caouana Fitzinger, 1836|
| ||Chelonia (Thalassochelys) atra Fitzinger, 1836|
| ||Thalassochelys caretta Bonaparte, 1838|
| ||Chelonia (Caouana) cephalo Cocteau, 1838|
| ||Halichelys atra Fitzinger, 1843|
| ||Caouana Caretta Gray, 1844|
| ||Caouana elongata Gray, 1844|
| ||Thalassochelys Caouana Agassiz, 1857|
| ||Thalassochelys corticata Girard, 1858|
| ||Chelonia corticata Strauch, 1862|
| ||Thalassochelys elongata Strauch, 1862|
| ||Thalassiochelis caouana Nardo, 1864|
| ||Eremonia elongata Gray, 1873|
| ||Caretta caretta Stejneger, 1904|
| ||Caretta caretta Frazier, 1985|
| ||Thallasochelys cephalo Barbour and Cole, 1906|
| ||Caretta caretta caretta Mertens and Müller, 1928|
| ||Caretta gigas Deraniyagala, 1933|
| ||Caretta caretta gigas Deraniyagala, 1939|
| ||Caretta caretta tarapacana Caldwell, 1962|
Subspecies : The subspecific status should be re-assessed because the two described subspecies, one for the Pacific, |
|En - Loggerhead turtle, Fr - Caouane, Sp - Caguama.|
3Alpha Code: TTL Taxonomic Code: 5310701801|
|Scientific Name with Original Description|
|Testudo caretta Linnaeus, 1758, Systema Naturae, Ed. 10, T. 1:197 (Island ofAmerica).|
|In adults, the carapace in dorsal view is heart-shaped, its width about 76 to 86% of its length. Head large, broad and subtriangular, 23 to 28% of carapace length, with 2 pairs of prefrontal scales, and commonly one inter-prefrontal; horny beak very strong, comparatively thicker than in other sea turtles.
Carapacial scutes thin, but hard and very rough, commonly covered with barnacles. They include 5 pairs of laterals, the anterior touching the precentral scute, 5 centrals (neurals), and commonly 12 or 13 pairs of marginals, including the postcentral or pygal scute. Underneath the bridge of the plastron, there are 3 pairs of inframarginal scutes which rarely have pores. Fore flippers relatively short and thick, each with 2 visible claws on anterior margin; rear flippers with 2 or 3 claws. Hatchlings and juvenile turtles have blunt spines on the carapace scutes, forming 3 longitudinal keels that disappear during the juvenile stage.
Colour: The adults of Caretta generally have a constant dorsal pattern, easily recognisable by the reddishbrown coloration, sometimes with dark streaks (South African turtles), that become orange-creamy on the flanks and yellow-creamy underneath. The hatchlings are darkbrown dorsally, with the flippers pale brown marginally and underneath, and the plastron usually is much paler.
|Caretta caretta is widely distributed in coastal tropical and subtropical waters (16-20°C) around the world . Commonly this species wanders into temperate waters and to the boundaries of warm currents.It is suspected that some loggerhead turtles undertake long migrations using warm currents (e. g., the Gulf Stream in the North Atlantic ; the North Equatorial and Kuroshio Currents and the California Current (12-20°C) in the North Pacific and other currents in the southern hemisphere), that bring them far from the nesting and feeding grounds. [more...]|
Apparently, the limit of distribution is waters of about 10°C; if they encounter colder waters, they may become stunned, drift helplessly and strand on nearby shores. Records are quoted from New England and eastern Canada, Labrador and Nova Scotia, especially between July and October of warm years. The northern limit of distribution is a summer capture of a live young turtle entangled in a fishing line off Murmansk, Barents Sea (68° SS'N). Brongersma (1972) quotes this and many other records for European waters. Occasionally, the species is sighted in southern Australia and New Zealand. In South America it is absent from west Colombia, Ecuador and Peru, but there are some records from Arica and Coquimbo, in Chile; on the eastern coast, the southernmost record is Rio de la Plata, Argentina.
|Habitat and Biology|
|This turtle primarily is an inhabitant of continental shores of warm seas, common in shallow waters, but it also lives around some islands as: Masirah in Oman, Zakinthos in Greece, and the Ryukyu and Japan Archipelago.This turtle primarily is an inhabitant of continental shores of warm seas, common in shallow waters, but it also lives around some islands as: Masirah in Oman, Zakinthos in Greece, and the Ryukyu and Japan Archipelago.|
This is the only sea turtle that can nest successfully outside of the tropics, but the summer surface temperature must be over 20°C.
During, or soon after the breeding season ends, some females disperse to distant feeding grounds.
Migratory routes are not clearly delineated, but hatchlings theoretically follow warm currents such as the Gulf Stream, or may enter the big gyre of the North Pacific Ocean, along the Kuroshio, the California and the North Equatorial currents. It is possible that if they are "trapped" by these enormous warm currents and complete the intercontinental circuit (gyre) they may be near maturity when they are carried back to their natal beaches.
Loggerhead hatchlings and juveniles are frequently associated with sea fronts (oceanic current convergences), downwellings and eddies, where floating epipelagic animals and floatsam are gathered. The elapsed time, usually more than a year - during which the small turtles remain in those places feeding and growing - is called the "lost year". During this first period of life there is evidence that these turtles lead a pelagic-nectonic existence, feeding on organisms usually associated with sargassum mats.
There are several major nesting grounds, and some of them are located in northern latitudes. In general, the loggerhead does not form "arribazones" but nests on large beaches. The major nesting grounds are located in the southeastern USA, principally in Florida and South Carolina with a mean annual production (in 1986) of about 24 000 and 4 000 nests respectively; in Florida, the nesting is much more important on the Atlantic than on the Gulf coast: Georgia with 1 250, and North Carolina with 280 nests per year. In the eastern USA, minor and solitary nesting occurs as far north as New Jersey.
Along the Gulf of Mexico coasts, only minor and solitary nesting is recorded. In Mexico, on the northeastern coasts of the Yucatan peninsula and in Quintana Roo State, small groups of turtles occur from Cape Catoche and Contoy Island to Ascencion Bay, with a relatively greater abundance between Carmen Port and Ascencion Bay, including Cozumel Island and Boca Paila Beach as the more important nesting places in this region. Minor nesting beaches are located on some islands of the Caribbean region, principally on the south-central coasts, islands and cays of Cuba.
Going south in this region, other nesting is negligible, except for Colombia, where the remains of an important nesting aggregation is reported, especially to the east side of Santa Marta, between the rivers Piedras and Riohacha (which includes the Buritaca Reserve). It was calculated that about 2 000 nests were laid every season in this area, but they have recently declined to a few hundred. East of Colombia, the presence and nesting of loggerheads are negligible. In Brazil, e.g., Maranhao and Ceara, an annual production of over a thousand nests is reported; nesting is consistently reported from Sergipe and also occurs in the states of Bahia, Espirito Santo and Rio de Janeiro. Subadult and few adult loggerhead turtles have been reported as far south as Uruguay, especially between Rocha and Malclonado, including the area of Rio de la Plata. Nesting does not occur this far south.
In the Mediterranean Sea, Caretta is the most common turtle, and it is regularly captured either directly or incidentally. Nesting is reported principally from the coasts of Greece, Turkey to Israel, Tunisia, both coasts of Italy, Sicily and historically from Sardinia and Corsica; in Cyprus and Algeria, nesting was formerly more widely and consistently observed, but nowadays occurs only from time-to-time. The annual production of nests, in all of the Mediterranean continental rookeries was believed not to exceed 1 000 nests, but recently the Zakinthos Island, in Greece, was indicated as an important nesting place, with over 2 000 nests per year. In the southern Mediterranean, the northeast coast of Libya is known as a minor nesting beach.Caretta is also reported from the Iberian peninsula, but no nesting has been observed there up to now. The western and the southwestern coasts of the Black Sea probably also have sporadic nesting.
On the Bahamas, Bermuda and the oceanic North Atlantic islands nesting does not occur, but juvenile loggerheads are commonly observed (reported from around Madeira, the Canary Islands and especially the Azores). These turtles apparently originate in the Western Atlantic rookeries, from which hatchlings enter the Gulf Stream and are carried to these islands. These oceanic gyres and eddies are considered as feeding grounds and developing habitats, where the loggerheads reach the last juvenile stages.
In the Eastern Atlantic, minor nesting takes place in Morocco, the Cape Verde Archipelago and on the coast of Senegal (Dakar). In the Gulf of Guinea, loggerheads may nest, but no reports are as yet available from this area. Minor nesting is reported for southern Angola and northern Namibia, known in the region as the "Skeleton coast".
Major Indian Ocean nesting grounds occur in South Africa, especially in the northeastern part of Tongaland on the Natal coast, where the nesting population comprises several hundred females. Other important nesting grounds are those in southern Madagascar, but no mention is made of the Comores Archipelago in the compilation prepared by Frazier (1985). Further north, the largest known breeding aggregation occurs on the Arabian peninsula, described in 1979 as the most important rookery for loggerheads in the world, with an annual rough estimate of 30 000 nesting females on Masirah Island, Sultanate of Oman alone; other nesting may occur in the area but it is negligible and there is apparently no nesting in the Red Sea or the Persian (Arabian) Gulf.
Around the islands of the Indian Ocean, this species is nearly unknown. There is minor turtle nesting in Kosgoda, southwestern Sri Lanka, where ridleys and green turtles are common, but loggerheads are rare.
In China, nesting occurs along the coasts of the South China Sea, principally in Hainan Island. Caretta is frequently observed from Kuangsi (south) to Hopei (north) in Taiwanese waters, but without nesting records. Going northeast, nesting occurs just up to Japanese waters, especially on the southern islands, from the Ryukyu Archipelago to Kyushu and Shikoku Islands. The northernmost point of nesting in the Western Pacific is about 37°N, on the east coast of Honshu Island, where Caretta is the most abundant of all sea turtles. In the western Pacific, nesting is mentioned, but not quantified for waters of Sumatra, Borneo, Sabah, Philippines, Indochina, Malaysia and Thailand; from the Arafura Sea to Australia, the loggerhead not only nests, but is recognized as being very common. For the coasts of western Australia (Shark Bay and Barrow Island) and Queensland, south of the Great Barrier Reef (Mon Repos-Bundaberg, Crab Islands and Swain Reefs Islands) there are estimates of annual numbers of over 3 000 females. Records are also available from around Papua New Guinea and New Caledonia, but they become less frequent in New Zealand waters and nearly absent in the western and central Pacific Oceanic Islands, except Tokelau, Fiji, New Caledonia and Solomon, where they are reported as rare. Those records have been apparently confused with the olive ridley (L. olivacea). In the Hawaiian Archipelago, Caretta is not common, and nesting does not occur.
In the Eastern Pacific Ocean, nesting of Caretta was reported from the Gulf of Panama and El Salvador, but it is unclear whether the identification of the species was accurate. It was very probably confused with the olive ridley (L. olivacea) Loggerheads are absent on the coasts of Colombia, Ecuador and Peru. There are also several non-nesting reports from Chile.
Thousands of loggerheads appear during spring and summer in Baja California and the Gulf of California waters, but apparently all these turtles are non-reproductive, measuring between 25 and 92 cm of CCL. Until now, no turtle in this area has been reported bearing mature eggs.
Nesting of Caretta usually occurs in spring and summer, with variations according to the latitude and geographical characteristics of the coast. Data available in the literature show that the nesting season also varies in extent: In the Caribbean area it extends from April to July or the first week of August, with the peak in May or June (principally southern Cuba and Quintana Roo, Mexico). In the northwest Atlantic Ocean, from April to September, with the peak in June-July (Florida). In the southwestern Atlantic, from April to August, with the peak in June (Colombia). In the Eastern Atlantic, from June to September (eastern Mediterranean, Turkey, Libya, and Zakinthos Island, Greece), and from July to October (Senegal). In the southwestern Indian Ocean from October to February, with the peak in NovemberDecember (South Africa: Natal -Tongaland) in the northwestern Indian Ocean, from May to June, but there are also reports for the winter from November to March, with the peak in December-January (Masirah Island, Oman). In the east up to Sri Lanka, questionable reports that may correspond to Lepidochelys olivacea, state that the season runs in the winter, starting from September and lasting seven months up to the next year. In the Northwest Pacific Ocean there are no big nesting grounds; in China, the season goes from April to August with a peak in June or July; in Japan (Honshu, Kiushu and the Ryukyu Archipelago), the situation is similar, but the season starts earlier in the southern beaches and also has the peak in June or July. In Australia, the season runs from October to April, with the peak between November to January. No nesting is reported from New Zealand.
Caretta shows renesting frequency intervals of nearly two weeks; females usually lay between two and five times per season, depositing on each occasion from 40 to 190 eggs (mean: 110 eggs). Hence, a single female could lay a maximum of 560 eggs per season. The major pattern of the reproductive cycle is two or three years, but some parts of the population may shift from one cycle to another, including to a yearly cycle.
The size of the egg clutch varies from place to place, from a minimum of 23 to a maximum of 190 eggs per clutch.
In general, the egg size in diameter and mass usually varies proportionally to the size of the turtle, hence small turtles lay smaller eggs. The egg diameter ranges from 34.7 to 55.2 mm.
The nests of these turtles sometimes contain undersized eggs, laid together with the normal ones, but never in such large quantities as in the leatherback turtle; oversized and abnormal-shaped eggs are also present, but not frequent.
Egg weight measurements are less frequent than those of diameter size, and available data range from 26.2 to 46.8 gr.
The incubation period varies among populations and with beach latitude; e.g. USA, South Carolina, 55 to 62 days; Hutchinson Island, Florida, mean duration 68 days; Mexico, Quintana Roo, mean duration 56 days; Turkey, 50 to 64 days, mean duration 57 days; Greece, Zakinthos Islands 49 to 69 days, mean duration 57 days; South Africa, Tongaland, 55 to 65 days, mean duration 68 days; Japan, Hiwasa, usually 58 days. In general, the warmest places and times result in the shortest periods of incubation, so there are differences on the same beaches depending on location of the nest and time of oviposition; even in the same localities, the incubation length changes from season to season.
Size and weight of hatchlings are considered to be correlated directly with the size of the eggs; the more frequent measurements are straight carapace length (SCL) which ranges from 33.5 to 55 mm, and total weight (range of mean values from 18.8 to 21.1 g).
Age at first maturity has not been clearly determined yet. Data derivated from research in captivity indicate ages from 6 to 20 years; the back calculation from capture - recapture data of tagged nesting females, analyzed through logistic and von Bertalanffy growth curves, produce ranges from 12 to 30 or more years, for minimum (74 cm) and maximum (92 cm) straight carapace lengths; these data apply to the southeastern coast of the United States, but differences must be expected for nesting beaches located on different latitudes, as Colombia, Oman, Australia or Japan.
Unlike other sea turtles, courtship and mating are usually not performed near or in front of the nesting beaches, but along the migration routes between feeding and breeding grounds. Courtship and mating are not commonly observed, but some photographs have been taken, e.g. the photograph by Mr Larry Bearse (Anon., 1985) south of Cape Hatteras in North Carolina, USA, on 28 March 1985, in waters of the western side of the Gulf Stream. Mating apparently is accomplished while floating on the water surface, but in Australia near Sandy Cape, Limpus (1985) has reported underwater copulation. In captivity, it is common for one female to be covered several times by different males before the nesting time, but other females are covered by only one male before nesting, apparently without any effect on the fertility of the eggs. It is also possible that through storage of the sperm of one or several males in the reproductive tract (oviducts) of the female, all clutches of the current nesting season can be fertilized without repeated matings. Mating usually is performed several weeks before the nesting season.
Optimal incubation occurs within a limited range of temperatures, usually between a minimum of 26°C and a maximum of 32°C; there is evidence that sex determination is male-biased in cool temperatures and that survival rate decreases at the extreme temperatures of this range. The "pivotal temperature", defined as the temperature where a 1: 1 sex ratio occurs, seems to be about 30°C for this species, but it may show small variations among populations and with geographical latitude- As in all the other sea turtles, hatching occurs in the course of several days (2 to 3); it takes several hours for the hatchlings to reach the surface of the sand and only a few minutes to emerge from the nests. Emergence occurs mostly at night; the peak time usually lies between 21:00 and 02:00 hours, but during cloudy days it may continue late in the morning. After the majority of hatchlings appear at the surface of the nest, they start a frenzied race to the surf and disappear in the waves.
Highest predation occurs in the incubation period and during the race of the hatchlings to the sea. Small turtles swim straight out from the coastal shallow waters, since fish predation decreases strongly in deep waters. Massive destruction of eggs and embryos is also caused by natural phenomena such as erosion or sea overwash. Eggs, embryos and hatchlings are devoured by a great variety of predators and primarily or secondarily affected by bacterial and fungal diseases. It is common that clutches of eggs or hatchlings, while remaining in the nests, are eaten by ghost crabs, ants and fly larvae; predation by monitor lizards (Varanus) in South Africa and Northern Australia, and by raccoons in some beaches of Florida and South Carolina is responsible for over 40 and 56% of egg losses respectively; skunks, feral dogs, genets, pigs, foxes, jackals (in Cape Verde and Libya) also destroy nests. During the synchronous nocturnal travel from the nest to the surf, hatchlings are devoured by many of the abovementioned predators. Land and shore birds also take their quota if hatchlings emerge in day time. After reaching the waves, predation continues by marine birds and neritic and pelagic fishes (e.g., Centropristes, Coryphaena).
Little is known about predation on juveniles and adults, but they are usually too large for many predators except the big carnivorous fishes such as groupers, snappers and jacks. Sharks are the principal enemies for all size classes of turtles. Turtles above medium size are able to avoid shark attacks, by presenting the flat side of the plastron or carapace to prevent biting. The worst predator of loggerhead turtles is man who is able to take the entire egg production of any beach or capture any size and quantity of turtles. The loggerhead turtle is the most prone to bear epibiontic organisms, including leeches, crabs, green filamentous algae, etc. Leeches could be the cause of skin damage and secondary infection and also propiciate the tissue degeneration known as papillomae.
Feeding behaviour may change somewhat with age, but this species is carnivorous throughout its life. There is evidence that hatchlings obtain their food from the fauna living in seagrass mats, frequently distributed along the drift lines and eddies. Hatchling gut contents have shown jellyfishes, pieces of Sargassum, gastropods (Diacria, Litiopa), crustacean appendages and materials as grit, feathers, bark and plastic pieces. Juveniles, subadults and adults have been more extensively studied and show a very wide variety of prey, principally benthic fauna like, conchs (Strombus, Cypraea, Conus, Kelletia, Cassis, Janthina, Harpa, etc), clams (Cardium, Pecten, Mactra, Pinna, Venus, etc.), horse shoe crab (Limulus), crabs (Calappa,Callinectes, Portunus, Cancer, Hepatus, etc.), occasionally shrimps (Pennaeus, Sicyonia), sea urchins, sponges, fishes (Brevoortia, Sardinops, Scomber, Diodon, etc.), squids, octopuses, and also man-caught fauna (shrimp-trawl bycatch). Because of their carnivorous diet (molluscs-crustaceans), loggerheads compete for food with ridley sea turtles (Lepidochelys). During their migration through the open sea they eat jellyfishes, pteropods, floating molluscs (Janthina), floating egg clusters, flying fishes, squids, lobsterets (Galatheids). In western Baja California, many of the dissected loggerheads had full stomachs containing only Pleuroncodes planipes (the pelagic small red lobsteret). Sometimes the diet includes sea turtle hatchlings, floating algae (Sargassum) and other plants, but it is suspected that plant ingestion is involuntary during feeding activities. In a loggerhead from Trinidad and Tobago, the only species found in the stomach was Conus ermius. Experiments show that although this species has food preferences, it clearly is a facultative feeder over a wide range of food items.
|In general, the mean straight carapace length (SCL) of the mature females is between 81.5 and 105.3 cm (n a; 3502), with a mean weight near to 75; kg (65.7 to 101.4 kg, n a 153). The carapace length (SCL) in nesting females varies within a limited size range, but is always over 70 cm. [more...]|
|Interest to Fisheries|
|Up to several years ago (the seventies), Caretta was commonly captured in commercial operations and the meat, eggs, leather and fat were used. However, its flesh and leather is less valuable than that of the green turtle (Chelonia), and the carapace brings a lower price than that of the hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys), which produces tortoise-shell. With few exceptions, in many countries this species has not been the major target in the sea turtle catch; but in the northern and northeastern Gulf of Mexico, Texas and Florida, it was captured as bycatch and canned together with the green sea turtle up to the early fifties. On the eastern coast of Mexico it was captured jointly with the green turtle, but while the loggerhead was consumed fresh, the green turtle was exported, principally to Tampa, Florida, up to late seventies. In Cuba, the exploitation continues, but at a restricted annual level of between 250 and 300 t. It is very Common that in places where regulations are not strictly enforced, the eggs are consumed whenever found and also widely commercialized in unknown quantities, generally through illegal markets.|
The most common way of Caretta harvesting has been the "turtle turning" on the beaches and the setting of entangling nets, the majority in front of nesting beaches- in Caribbean shallow waters, the nets used are made of cotton yarn with light weights on the bottom line, to avoid drowning the turtles, and similar nets are used in the Gulf of Mannar, The capture with nets is increased during the night time- Several kinds of harpoons with detachable iron points have been widely used. Harpooning generally was performed by two fishermen on small wooden boats, one of them paddling and the other "hunting" at the bow of the boat. In the transparent Caribbean waters it is possible to observe the turtles on the bottom, so the turtlers can follow the prey until it comes up to breathe. This moment is used for harpooning it; this method is called "correteada", -rove or boat-chase - on the Western Caribbean coast of Mexico.
The FAO Yearbook of Fishery Statistics reports loggerhead catches only from Fishing Area 31 (Western Central Atlantic, Cuba only). The registered world catch was 273 t in 1983, 277 t in 1984, 322 t in 1985, 309 t in 1986 and 238 t in 1987.
Because of their feeding behaviour and their habit of overwintering in shallow waters, this species, together with Lepidochelys, is more prone to capture by shrimp trawlersand gillnets (mainly shark-nets). In recent years, in Atlantic waters of the USA, around 32 000 loggerheads were caught annually and nearly 21% of them died by drowning; in addition, more than 10 500 turtles were trapped annually in the Gulf of Mexico by the same types of gear, and approximately 29.8% of them were killed during trawling. The majority were late juveniles and subadults, while adults were relatively few. Also the records of the "Sea Turtle Stranding and Salvage Network" from the east coast of the USA show that loggerhead turtles were the most frequently stranded (73%) of the five Atlantic species, with a total of 2 373 individuals registered during 1987. The blasting of old petroleum platforms is another cause of high sea-turtle mortality, especially of loggerheads. This kind of mortality is also reported for Mexico, Australia, South Africa, Japan, China, and wherever the loggerhead lives. The extent of the mortality needs to be evaluated in all these and other areas such as the Mediterranean Sea and the southern coast of the Arabian Peninsula.
The FAO Yearbook of Fishery Statistics reported for 1996 a total catched of 10 t. in Western Central Atlantic, Cuba only. The total catch reported for this species to FAO for 1999 was 5 t. The countries with the largest catches were Cuba (5 t).
|ARABIAN PENINSULA :
Maiwa (Torres Strait).|
Avo de aruana ,
Tartaruga caret ,
Tartaruga mesticona ,
Vovo de tartaruga .|
|CARIBBEAN REGION :
Tortuga gogo .|
Grosse Tête ,
Tortue caouanne .|
Unechte Karettschildkröte .|
Taras al asfar (Arabic).|
Tartaruga caretta ,
Tartaruga comune .|
Perunthalai amai (Tamil).|
Penyu mangong .|
|IRIAN JAYA :
Penyu waukaku .|
|PAPUA NEW GUINEA :
Tortue caouanne ,
Tortue jaune .|
Nam koyo ,
Torti batar .|
|SOUTH AFRICA :
|SRI LANKA :
Nai mai ,
Olu geddi kasdava .|
Fahroun el bahr .|
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