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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 185:297-299 (1999)  -  doi:10.3354/meps185297

Long-term thermal conditions on the nesting beaches of green turtles on Ascension Island

Graeme C. Hays*, Brendan J. Godley, Annette C. Broderick

School of Biological Sciences, University of Wales Swansea, Singleton Park, Swansea SA2 8PP, United Kingdom

ABSTRACT: On 2 of the major nesting beaches used by green turtles Chelonia mydas on Ascension Island, we measured the sand temperature at nest depths throughout the year. For both beaches, the sand temperature was strongly correlated (r2 >= 0.94) with air temperature. We therefore used past records of air temperature to reconstruct sand temperatures on the different beaches throughout the nesting season between 1985 and 1998. This analysis showed that inter-annual differences in sand temperature were small and, while there were consistent thermal changes during the nesting season, over the 14 yr there was little overlap in the temperatures on the 2 beaches, with one being 2.6°C warmer, on average, than the other. This work suggests that inter-beach thermal variation is the major mechanism by which a range of incubation temperatures are realised on Ascension Island and hence is likely to facilitate the production of hatchlings of both sexes.

KEY WORDS: Sea turtle · Chelonia mydas · Incubation temperature · Temperature-dependent sex determination · Ascension Island

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