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ESR prepress abstract   -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/esr01107

Embryo deformities and nesting trends in Kemp’s ridley sea turtles Lepidochelys kempii before and after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill

Donna J. Shaver*, Christian Gredzens, J. Shelby Walker, Céline A. J. Godard-Codding, Janet E. Yacabucci, Amy Frey, Peter H. Dutton, Christopher J. Schmitt

*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Kemp’s ridley sea turtles Lepidochelys kempii were disproportionately affected by the Deepwater Horizon (DWH) oil spill, which began on 20 April 2010. Embryo deformities were documented in inviable L. kempii eggs before (2008–2010) and after (2011–2013) the DWH spill in 2 Texas nesting areas (Upper Texas Coast and Padre Island National Seashore). Additional nesting trends, including clutch size and hatching success, were also investigated. Total and late-stage embryo deformity prevalence were one and a half times greater after 2010 than before, but low in all nesting seasons (mean ± SD: 0.7 ± 8.5% total; 0.6 ± 8.0% late-stage) and did not differ between locations. Craniofacial and carapace deformities were the most frequently observed deformity types. Documented nests in both areas declined in 2010 relative to previous years, ending an exponential increase observed beginning in 1995. Clutch size remained consistent before and after the spill. Hatching success averaged 87.0 ± 33.3% (mean ± SD) in all years, but no effects from DWH were determined. Collectively, these data represent useful benchmarks against which to judge impacts by future crude oil spills and other catastrophic events.