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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 497:229-241 (2014)  -  DOI:

Distribution patterns and foraging ground productivity determine clutch size in Mediterranean loggerhead turtles

Luis Cardona1, Marcel Clusa1,*, Elena Eder1,2, Andreas Demetropoulos3, Dimitris Margaritoulis4, ALan F. Rees4, Abdulmaula A. Hamza5, Mona Khalil6, Yaniv Levy7, Oguz Türkozan8, Isabel Marín1, Alex Aguilar

1Department of Animal Biology and IRBio, University of Barcelona, Av. Diagonal 643, 08028 Barcelona, Spain
2Centro Nacional Patagónico (CENPAT-CONICET), 9210 Puerto Madryn Chubut, Argentina
3Cyprus Wildlife Society, Emmanuel Xanthou 11, PO Box 24281, 1703 Nicosia, Cyprus
4ARCHELON, The Sea Turtle Protection Society of Greece, Solomou 57, 10432 Athens, Greece
5Libyan Seaturtle Program, Environment General Authority, Alfateh University, PO Box 13793, Tripoli, Libya
6MEDASSET, PO Box 19, Tyre, Lebanon
7The Israel Sea Turtle Rescue Centre, Nature Parks Authority, Mevoot Yam, Mikhmoret 40297, Israel
8Adnan Menderes University, Faculty of Science and Arts, Department of Biology, Aydin, Turkey
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Loggerhead turtles Caretta caretta use a wide variety of foraging strategies, and some populations forage in sub-optimal habitats. Different foraging strategies may not be equivalent in terms of fitness and may result in differences in adult body size and clutch size among populations. Accordingly, we tested whether differences in clutch size among rookeries in the Mediterranean Sea are related to differential use of foraging grounds of contrasting productivity. Stable isotope ratios of carbon and nitrogen of turtle hatchlings from 8 Mediterranean rookeries were used to characterise the foraging grounds of their mothers. Clutch size was also studied in each rookery to assess reproductive output linked to foraging ground productivity. According to stable isotope ratios, most of the females nesting in the considered rookeries foraged in the southern Ionian Sea. The highly productive Adriatic/northern Ionian Sea region was mainly used by females nesting in western Greece. The explanation for these patterns might be linked to water circulation patterns and drifting trajectories followed during developmental migrations, which might determine individual knowledge on the location of productive foraging patches. Average clutch size in each rookery was positively correlated to the proportion of females accessing highly productive areas such as the Adriatic/northern Ionian Sea. This has a strong influence on reproductive output, and hence females using the most productive foraging grounds had the largest clutch sizes.

KEY WORDS: Caretta caretta · Currents · Foraging ground · Primary productivity · Reproductive output · Rookery · Stable isotopes

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Cite this article as: Cardona L, Clusa M, Eder E, Demetropoulos A and others (2014) Distribution patterns and foraging ground productivity determine clutch size in Mediterranean loggerhead turtles. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 497:229-241.

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