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Endangered Species Research

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ESR 41:329-338 (2020)  -  DOI:

Assessing the evidence of ‘infertile’ sea turtle eggs

Andrea D. Phillott1,*, Matthew H. Godfrey2,3,4

1FLAME University, Pune, Maharashtra 412115, India
2North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, Beaufort, NC 28516, USA
3Duke Marine Laboratory, Nicholas School of Environment, Duke University, Beaufort, NC 28516, USA
4Department of Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC 27695, USA
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: There is increasing concern about feminization of sea turtle populations resulting from female-biased production of hatchlings due to climate change and selective loss of males from other anthropogenic drivers. Extreme female-biased breeding populations would reduce the likelihood of successful mating and potentially result in high rates of infertile eggs. Infertile eggs are those in which none of the events between sperm penetration of the ovum and syngamy have occurred. Distinguishing between fertile and infertile eggs is challenging, especially in field conditions, and researchers often have relied on physical evidence gathered from unhatched eggs at the end of the incubation period, which likely have experienced tissue decomposition. We argue that infertility in sea turtle eggs can be demonstrated only by the absence of holes caused by sperm penetration of the inner perivitelline membrane; sperm bound between the inner and outer perivitelline membranes; nuclei in the blastodisc; embryonic tissue or membranes in egg contents; and/or the characteristic white spot on the egg exterior. Unhatched eggs can be examined at the end of the incubation period, but we recommend that studies specifically investigating infertility examine at least 20 oviposited eggs each from clutches laid by at least 20 different turtles at the peak of the nesting season.

KEY WORDS: Sea turtle · Egg · Embryo · Fertile · Infertile · Fertilization · Feminization

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Cite this article as: Phillott AD, Godfrey MH (2020) Assessing the evidence of ‘infertile’ sea turtle eggs. Endang Species Res 41:329-338.

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