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Endangered Species Research

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ESR 11:147-155 (2010)  -  DOI:

Variations in leatherback turtle nest environments: consequences for hatching success

Kendra Garrett1,2, Bryan P. Wallace3,4,*, Jeanne Garner5, Frank V. Paladino1

1Department of Biology, Indiana-Purdue University, Fort Wayne, 2101 E. Coliseum Boulevard, Fort Wayne, Indiana 46805, USA
2Mote Marine Laboratory, 1600 Ken Thompson Parkway Sarasota, Florida 34236, USA
3Center for Applied Biodiversity Science, Conservation International, 2011 Crystal Drive, Arlington, Virginia 22202, USA
4Center for Marine Conservation, Nicholas School of the Environment, Duke University, 135 DUML Rd., Beaufort, North Carolina 28516, USA
5West Indies Marine Animal Research and Conservation Service, 202 Prosperity, Frederiksted 00840, US Virgin Islands
*Corresponding author. Email:

ABSTRACT: Physical and biological conditions of nests in which sea turtle embryos develop can vary among and within nesting beaches. Monitoring these conditions and their effects on embryonic development should be considered when assessing conservation efforts to increase sea turtle hatchling production. Sandy Point National Wildlife Refuge (SPNWR), St. Croix, US Virgin Islands, hosts a leatherback turtle Dermochelys coriacea nesting colony that has increased exponentially in the past 2 decades, due in part to an ongoing egg relocation program. We characterized the influence of nest environment conditions (e.g. partial pressures of oxygen, pO2, and carbon dioxide, pCO2, and temperature) on hatching success of relocated eggs at 3 different sites at SPNWR to evaluate potential intra-beach variation in nest environment conditions and hatching success. Although nest conditions varied significantly among sites, hatching success did not vary significantly among relocation sites. Among all clutches and sites, hatching success varied significantly with minimum pO2, maximum pCO2, and maximum temperatures measured in leatherback nests. Thus, leatherback embryos collectively affected their nest environment (i.e. decreased pO2, increased pCO2, and temperature), and appeared to show developmental sensitivity to low pO2 and high levels of pCO2 and temperature in nests. Our study shows the importance of considering sea turtle nest environment conditions when designing and executing beach-based conservation strategies such as egg relocation programs.

KEY WORDS: Leatherback turtle · Nest environment · Hatching success · Egg relocation

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Cite this article as: Garrett K, Wallace BP, Garner J, Paladino FV (2010) Variations in leatherback turtle nest environments: consequences for hatching success. Endang Species Res 11:147-155.

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