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Endangered Species Research

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ESR 12:77-86 (2010)  -  DOI:

Field lethal incubation temperature of olive ridley sea turtle Lepidochelys olivacea embryos at a mass nesting rookery

Roldán A. Valverde1,*, Susanna Wingard1, Flor Gómez2, Mark T. Tordoir3, Carlos M Orrego4

1Department of Biological Sciences, Southeastern Louisiana University, Hammond, Louisiana 70402, USA
2Universidad Nacional San Antonio Abad del Cusco, Cusco, Perú
3Department of Environmental Sciences, Van Hall Institute, Leeuwarden, Netherlands
4Department of Bioscience and Biotechnology, Drexel University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104, USA

ABSTRACT: Hatching success in olive ridley mass nesting arribada beaches is typically low. We conducted a short study to understand whether incubation temperature in dry months accounts for exceedingly low hatching success at Ostional Beach, Costa Rica, a mass nesting rookery. We measured in situ incubation temperatures in nests from 4 arribadas recorded in October to December 2008, and January 2009. Mean incubation temperatures for all months exceeded the upper lethal limit of 35°C, and no nests produced hatchlings when incubated at this or higher temperatures. Embryo development was inversely related to mean incubation temperature. Hatching success was low (2%) for the study period, and only 5 of 37 marked nests produced hatchlings. Mean incubation temperature for successful nests was <35°C. Since incubation temperatures of 32°C and higher recorded during the gonadal thermosensitive period were above the mean pivotal temperature of 30.5°C, the few hatchlings produced were presumably female. Incubation temperatures were significantly higher during the second and third trimesters of incubation during all months as a result of metabolic heating. However, during January to March when embryos did not develop, higher incubation temperatures of in situ nests relative to controls indicated that heating was a result of microbial activity associated with egg decomposition. Our study demonstrates that after the onset of the dry season, incubation temperatures at this beach become lethal.

KEY WORDS: Olive ridley · Lepidochelys olivacea · Ostional · Incubation temperature · Precipitation · Thermal tolerance range · Field lethal temperature · Arribada · Mass nesting

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Cite this article as: Valverde RA, Wingard S, Gómez F, Tordoir MT, Orrego CM (2010) Field lethal incubation temperature of olive ridley sea turtle Lepidochelys olivacea embryos at a mass nesting rookery. Endang Species Res 12:77-86.

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