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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 202:273-281 (2000)  -  doi:10.3354/meps202273

Incubation periods and sex ratios of green turtles: highly female biased hatchling production in the eastern Mediterranean

A. C. Broderick1,*, B. J. Godley1, S. Reece2, J. R. Downie2

1Marine Turtle Research Group, School of Biological Sciences, University of Wales, Swansea SA2 8PP, Wales, UK
2Division of Environmental and Evolutionary Biology, Institute of Biomedical and Life Sciences, University of Glasgow, Glasgow G12 8QQ, Scotland, UK

ABSTRACT: Marine turtles are globally endangered and subject to numerous conservation and management initiatives, yet many aspects of their life histories remain undescribed. All populations subject to investigation have been shown to have temperature dependent sex determination, and data in a number of cases have suggested that the sex ratio of hatchling production may be highly female biased. To date, the green turtle Chelonia mydas has been little studied in this respect. We recorded the temperature in 18 green turtle clutches laid at Alagadi Beach, Northern Cyprus using automated intra-nest recording devices. The temperatures experienced within these clutches ranged from 26.7 to 34.1°C with mean temperature ranging from 29.8 to 32.5°C. No regular diel thermal cycle was observed. Incubation periods at this site decreased as the season progressed and ranged from 43 to 60 d (n = 231; 1993 to 1998). In comparison to other published studies regarding temperature dependent sex determination in this species, these data are strongly suggestive of a highly female biased hatchling sex ratio. This hypothesis was partly confirmed utilising histological sexing of hatchlings found dead in nests (>99% female in 1998, n = 231). From these data we estimate that the pivotal incubation period for this population is ≥56 d and the pivotal temperature as below 29.2°C. Using a conservative assumption that 100% males are produced by nests with incubation periods „56 d and 100% females are produced by nests with shorter incubations, for the years 1993 to 1998, we estimate that at least 86 to 96% of hatchlings produced at this site were female.

KEY WORDS: Marine turtle · Chelonia mydas · Temperature · Hatching · Environmental sex determination

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