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ESR 41:153-165 (2020)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/esr01013

Survival and breeding interval of an endangered marine vertebrate, the leatherback turtle Dermochelys coriacea, in French Guiana

D. Chevallier1, M. Girondot2, R. Berzins3, J. Chevalier4, B. de Thoisy5, J. Fretey6, L. Kelle7, J. D. Lebreton8,*

1Institut Pluridisciplinaire Hubert Curien, UMR 7178 CNRS-Unistra, 67087 Strasbourg, France
2Laboratoire Écologie, Systématique, Évolution, Université Paris-Sud, AgroParisTech, CNRS, Université Paris Saclay, 91405 Orsay, France
3ONCFS, Campus Agronomique, 97319 Kourou CEDEX, French Guiana
4Awala, 97361 Awala-Yalimapo, French Guiana
5Association Kwata, 97335 Cayenne, French Guiana
6UICN France, Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle, 36 rue Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, 75005 Paris, France
7WWF Guianas, French Guiana Office, 97300 Cayenne, French Guiana
8Centre d’Ecologie Fonctionnelle et Evolutive, UMR 5175, CNRS Université de Montpellier, 34293 Montpellier CEDEX 5, France
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: In the context of global change, endangered species such as sea turtles undergo strong population dynamics changes. Understanding demographic processes inducing such changes is critical for developing appropriate measures for conservation and management. Nesting females of the French Guiana population of leatherback sea turtles Dermochelys coriacea represented 40% of the world’s total in 2001; today, they represent only 10%. Here, we analyze data from the long-term monitoring program of leatherbacks in French Guiana, based on 28 yr of capture-mark-recapture data from 46051 individuals in northwestern French Guiana. We used multievent models (multistate capture-recapture models with state uncertainty) to represent the main peculiarity of the life cycle, intermittent reproduction, and to take advantage of the use of several different types of marks to account for mark loss and incomplete detection. The average annual adult survival probability (mean ± SE) 0.789 ± 0.009 is low compared to published estimates for this species. By combining the estimates of departure and return probabilities, we provide an estimate of the interval among laying seasons equal to 2.777 ± 0.118 yr, which matches previous findings. Taking survival into account, this interval translates into an average of 1.704 ± 0.034 further reproductive seasons for an adult female having just bred, which is remarkably low compared to other long-lived vertebrates. The representation of the life cycle and mark loss in our models provides a sound structure for broader and richer analyses to extract biological information from marked individuals and offers an invaluable source of demographic information on leatherbacks, a species for which only a small segment of the population is accessible to intermittent sampling.


KEY WORDS: Leatherback turtle · Dermochelys coriacea · Capture-mark-recapture · Mark loss · Multievent models · Survival · Reproduction · French Guiana


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Cite this article as: Chevallier D, Girondot M, Berzins R, Chevalier J and others (2020) Survival and breeding interval of an endangered marine vertebrate, the leatherback turtle Dermochelys coriacea, in French Guiana. Endang Species Res 41:153-165. https://doi.org/10.3354/esr01013

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