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Aquatic Biology

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AB 19:217-229 (2013)  -  DOI:

Hatching and emergence success in green turtle Chelonia mydas nests in the Galápagos Islands

Patricia Zárate1,2,*, Karen A. Bjorndal1, Macarena Parra2, Peter H. Dutton3, Jeffrey A. Seminoff3, Alan B. Bolten1

1Archie Carr Center for Sea Turtle Research and Department of Biology, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida 32611, USA
2Marine Science Program, Charles Darwin Foundation, Santa Cruz Island, Galápagos Islands, Ecuador
3NOAA-National Marine Fisheries Service, Southwest Fisheries Science Center, La Jolla, California 92037, USA

ABSTRACT: The interactions of numerous abiotic and biotic factors experienced by sea turtle embryos during incubation affect their survival. In this study we determined the hatching and emergence success of green turtles Chelonia mydas from nests on 4 beaches on the Galápagos Islands, one of the most important rookeries for green turtles in the eastern Pacific Ocean. Mean (±SD) hatching and emergence success for the 1039 nests examined were 46.0 ± 33.4 and 45.6 ± 33.4%, respectively. These values are relatively low compared to other green turtle populations worldwide. We evaluated the effects of beach, year, day of oviposition, carapace length and width of female, nest position, nest habitat, and nest chamber depth on hatching and emergence success with binomial generalized additive models with fixed effects. We found variation in hatching and emergence success was significant among beaches, years, day of oviposition, and nest habitat. Predation by feral pigs and beetles and destruction of earlier nests by nesting females were the most important causes of embryo mortality. Efforts to keep threats at minimum levels, particularly controlling pigs near Isabela beaches, should be considered a major conservation objective. This study highlights important differences among beaches within a rookery and emphasizes the need to continue improving management strategies to protect green turtles and their critical habitats. Quantitative information provided here can be used as a basis for long-term studies in the Galápagos and for comparison to other sea turtles rookeries.

KEY WORDS: Chelonia mydas · Sea turtle reproduction · Clutch success · Generalized additive models · Pacific Ocean · Predation · Feral pigs · Beetles · Reptiles

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Cite this article as: Zárate P, Bjorndal KA, Parra M, Dutton PH, Seminoff JA, Bolten AB (2013) Hatching and emergence success in green turtle Chelonia mydas nests in the Galápagos Islands. Aquat Biol 19:217-229.

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