Social behaviors represent a central tenet of ecology and evolutionary biology, but remain widely undocumented in reptiles. Although marine turtles have been studied for decades, the prevalence, importance, and potential role of social behaviors have been largely overlooked. Consequently, marine turtles have predominantly been characterized as nonsocial animals in the literature. Here we report on visual observations of hawksbill turtles (Eretmochelys imbricata) inhabiting a nearshore coral reef in Hawai‘i that reveal a complex array of social behaviors. Combined with recent evidence for social behaviors in other marine turtle species, our results confirm that traditional views of nonsocial life histories are incomplete and that social behaviors are likely prevalent in many marine turtle species. Our findings have important implications for marine turtle management and suggest increased research into social behaviors is warranted across the taxon.
central north Pacific