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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 640:201-213 (2020)  -  DOI:

Diet and recruitment of green turtles in Fiji, South Pacific, inferred from in-water capture and stable isotope analysis

Susanna Piovano1,*, Garrett E. Lemons2, Ana Ciriyawa1,4, Aisake Batibasaga3, Jeffrey A. Seminoff2

1School of Marine Studies, The University of the South Pacific, Suva, Fiji
2NOAA-Southwest Fisheries Science Center, La Jolla, California 92037, USA
3Fiji Ministry of Fisheries, Suva, Fiji
4Present address: Wildlife Conservation Society, Suva, Fiji
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Green turtles Chelonia mydas are listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List, yet in the South Pacific few conservation-relevant data are available for the species, especially relating to foraging and habitat use. Here, in situ observations and stable isotope analysis (δ13C and δ15N) were used to evaluate green turtle diet and recruitment patterns at Yadua Island and Makogai Island, Fiji. Juvenile green turtles (N = 110) were hand-captured, measured, and sampled. Stable isotope analysis was performed on skin samples and on putative prey items. ‘Resident’ turtles versus ‘recent recruits’ were classified based on their bulk skin tissue isotope values, which were compared with stable isotope values of local prey items and analyzed via cluster analysis. Green turtle diet composition was estimated using MixSIAR, a Bayesian mixing model. Recent recruits were characterized by ‘low δ13C/high δ15N’ values and ranged in curved carapace length (CCL) from 25.5 to 60.0 cm (mean ± SD = 48.5 ± 5.7 cm). Recruitment mostly occurred in summer. Green turtles identified as ‘residents’ had CCLs ranging from 43.5 to 89.0 cm (mean ± SD = 57.4 ± 9.0 cm) and were characterized by ‘high δ13C/low δ15N’ values; mixing model results indicate they fed primarily on invertebrates (40%), fishes (31%), and marine plants (29%). This study confirms the value of seagrass pastures as both an essential habitat and a primary food source for green turtles, and can serve as a baseline for evaluations of natural and anthropogenic changes in local green turtle aggregations.

KEY WORDS: Chelonia mydas · Stable isotope analysis · δ13C · δ15N · Mixing models · SIAR · Foraging ground · Fiji

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Cite this article as: Piovano S, Lemons GE, Ciriyawa A, Batibasaga A, Seminoff JA (2020) Diet and recruitment of green turtles in Fiji, South Pacific, inferred from in-water capture and stable isotope analysis. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 640:201-213.

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