ESR 7:155-161 (2009)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/esr00098

NOTE
Changed reproductive schedule of eastern Pacific leatherback turtles Dermochelys coriacea following the 1997–98 El Niño to La Niña transition

Richard D. Reina1,*, James R. Spotila2, Frank V. Paladino3, Arthur E. Dunham4

1School of Biological Sciences, Monash University, Victoria 3800, Australia
2Department of Bioscience and Biotechnology, Drexel University, 3141 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104, USA
3Department of Biology, Indiana-Purdue University, Fort Wayne, Indiana 46805, USA
4Department of Biology, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104, USA

ABSTRACT: We used a long term tagging dataset to investigate alterations in the reproductive ecology of leatherback turtles Dermochelys coriacea in Pacific Costa Rica in response to changes in climatic conditions. We calculated the remigration interval (RI) and reproductive output of individual turtles to determine whether these variables changed after a transition from El Niño dominated to La Niña dominated conditions. The reproductive schedule of turtles changed after the end of El Niño conditions, such that the number of turtles nesting with short RIs increased, but their reproductive output did not change. In addition, RIs of individuals that nested before, during and after the transition altered coincident with the oceanic productivity changes caused by the climatic events. We modelled this data to show that a dominance of ‘bad’ El Niño conditions reduces population feasibility through increases in the age at maturity and RI, while a dominance of ‘good’ La Niña conditions causes the reverse. We propose that changes in climate may similarly manifest in changes in the reproduction and migration of individual animals of other Pacific vertebrate predators, affecting their population feasibility.


KEY WORDS: Leatherback turtle · Dermochelys coriacea · Reproductive schedule · El Niño–La Niña · Population ecology · Ocean productivity


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Cite this article as: Reina RD, Spotila JR, Paladino FV, Dunham AE (2009) Changed reproductive schedule of eastern Pacific leatherback turtles Dermochelys coriacea following the 1997–98 El Niño to La Niña transition. Endang Species Res 7:155-161. https://doi.org/10.3354/esr00098

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