ResearchPad - turtles https://www.researchpad.co Default RSS Feed en-us © 2020 Newgen KnowledgeWorks <![CDATA[Jellyfish distribution in space and time predicts leatherback sea turtle hot spots in the Northwest Atlantic]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/elastic_article_14580 Leatherback sea turtles (Dermochelys coriacea) migrate to temperate Canadian Atlantic waters to feed on gelatinous zooplankton (‘jellyfish’) every summer. However, the spatio-temporal connection between predator foraging and prey-field dynamics has not been studied at the large scales over which these migratory animals occur. We use 8903 tows of groundfish survey jellyfish bycatch data between 2006–2017 to reveal spatial jellyfish hot spots, and matched these data to satellite-telemetry leatherback data over time and space. We found highly significant overlap of jellyfish and leatherback distribution on the Scotian Shelf (r = 0.89), moderately strong correlations of jellyfish and leatherback spatial hot spots in the Gulf of St. Lawrence (r = 0.59), and strong correlations in the Bay of Fundy (r = 0.74), which supports much lower jellyfish density. Over time, jellyfish bycatch data revealed a slight northward range shift in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, consistent with gradual warming of these waters. Two-stage generalized linear modelling corroborated that sea surface temperature, year, and region were significant predictors of jellyfish biomass, suggesting a climate signal on jellyfish distribution, which may shift leatherback critical feeding habitat over time. These findings are useful in predicting dynamic habitat use for endangered leatherback turtles, and can help to anticipate large-scale changes in their distribution in response to climate-related changes in prey availability.

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<![CDATA[Warming seas increase cold-stunning events for Kemp’s ridley sea turtles in the northwest Atlantic]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5c59feb8d5eed0c484135335

Since the 1970s, the magnitude of turtle cold-stun strandings have increased dramatically within the northwestern Atlantic. Here, we examine oceanic, atmospheric, and biological factors that may affect the increasing trend of cold-stunned Kemp’s ridleys in Cape Cod Bay, Massachusetts, United States of America. Using machine learning and Bayesian inference modeling techniques, we demonstrate higher cold-stunning years occur when the Gulf of Maine has warmer sea surface temperatures in late October through early November. Surprisingly, hatchling numbers in Mexico, a proxy for population abundance, was not identified as an important factor. Further, using our Bayesian count model and forecasted sea surface temperature projections, we predict more than 2,300 Kemp’s ridley turtles may cold-stun annually by 2031 as sea surface temperatures continue to increase within the Gulf of Maine. We suggest warmer sea surface temperatures may have modified the northerly distribution of Kemp’s ridleys and act as an ecological bridge between the Gulf Stream and nearshore waters. While cold-stunning may currently account for a minor proportion of juvenile mortality, we recommend continuing efforts to rehabilitate cold-stunned individuals to maintain population resiliency for this critically endangered species in the face of a changing climate and continuing anthropogenic threats.

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<![CDATA[Seasonal home ranges and habitat selection of three elk (Cervus elaphus) herds in North Dakota]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5c61e8b4d5eed0c48496efe5

Changes in land use have resulted in range shifts of many wildlife species, including those entering novel environments, resulting in the critical need to understand their spatial ecology to inform ecosystem effects and management decisions. Dispersing elk (Cervus elaphus) were colonizing areas of suitable habitat in the Northern Great Plains, USA, resulting in crop depredation complaints in these areas. Although state resource managers had little information on these elk herds, limited evidence suggested temporal movements into Canada. We collected and analyzed essential information on home range and habitat selection for 3 elk herds residing in North Dakota. We captured 5 adult female elk in each study area, affixed global positioning system collars, and monitored them for 1 year (2016–2017). We estimated diel period, seasonal, and hunting season home ranges using Brownian Bridge Movement Models for each individual. We analyzed habitat selection using multinomial logit models to test for differences in use of land classes, and for departures from proportionate use based on random sampling; our predictor variables included individual elk, diel period, and season. Home ranges differed between the 3 herds, seasons, and diel period; gun and winter season home ranges were both larger than in summer, as was night when compared with day. Female elk generally restricted themselves to cover during the day and entered open areas at night and during winter months. Our results also suggest that elk in our study areas tended to seek more cover, and in the case of our Turtle Mountain study area, some cross into Canada during gun season. Our study provides a better understanding of the spatial ecology of elk in the Northern Great Plains while highlighting the need for enhanced international cooperative management efforts.

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<![CDATA[An experimental study of turtle shell rattle production and the implications for archaeofaunal assemblages]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5b6da1b9463d7e4dccc5faf0

Turtle shell rattles are percussion instruments used by Indigenous peoples of the Americas in ceremonial contexts to keep rhythm. Archaeological investigations in the southeastern United States produced several complete and partial Eastern box turtle (Terrapene carolina) shell rattles from mortuary contexts dating from the Archaic (ca. 8000–1000 BC) through Mississippian periods (ca. AD 800–1500). Fragmentary turtle remains, some identified as Eastern box turtle, are frequently recovered from non-mortuary contexts. Traditionally, these fragmentary remains are attributed to food waste. Given the archaeological and ethnographic evidence for turtle shell rattles, we need to consider how fragmentary remains might fit into the chaîne opératoire of rattle production. This paper presents the results of an experimental study designed to identify one such chaîne opératoire of rattle production. During this experiment, the data on taphonomic processes such as manufacturing marks, use-wear, and breakage patterns, were recorded. We then tested the taphonomic findings from the experimental study and an object trait list we compiled from known rattle specimens and documentary sources with archaeological turtle remains recovered from non-mortuary contexts at two Mississippian period (ca. AD 1000–1450) sites in Middle Tennessee. Historic indigenous groups are known to have, and still do into the present-day, make and use turtle shell rattles in the region. Ultimately, we determined that “food refuse” should not be the default interpretation of fragmentary box turtle remains, and instead the taphonomic history and contextual associations must be considered in full. The experimental process of crafting turtle shell rattles enhances our understanding of an ancient musical instrument and the success rate of identifying musical artifacts and distinguishing between other modified turtle remains in the archaeological record. This study expands our knowledge of ancient music in North America and prompts re-analysis of curated turtle remains in museums for rattle-related modifications.

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<![CDATA[Epibiotic Diatoms Are Universally Present on All Sea Turtle Species]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5989dab5ab0ee8fa60bac6a7

The macro-epibiotic communities of sea turtles have been subject to growing interest in recent years, yet their micro-epibiotic counterparts are almost entirely unknown. Here, we provide the first evidence that diatoms are epibionts for all seven extant species of sea turtle. Using Scanning Electron Microscopy, we inspected superficial carapace or skin samples from a single representative of each turtle species. We distinguished 18 diatom taxa from these seven individuals, with each sea turtle species hosting at least two diatom taxa. We recommend that future research is undertaken to confirm whether diatom communities vary between sea turtle species and whether these diatom taxa are facultative or obligate commensals.

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<![CDATA[Challenges in Evaluating the Severity of Fibropapillomatosis: A Proposal for Objective Index and Score System for Green Sea Turtles (Chelonia mydas) in Brazil]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5989db08ab0ee8fa60bc9005

Fibropapillomatosis (FP) is a neoplastic disease that affects marine turtles worldwide, especially green sea turtles (Chelonia mydas). FP tumors can develop on the body surface of marine turtles and also internally in the oral cavity and viscera. Depending on their quantity, size and anatomical distribution, these tumors can interfere with hydrodynamics and the ability to feed, hence scoring systems have been proposed in an attempt to quantify the clinical manifestation of FP. In order to establish a new scoring system adapted to geographic regions, we examined 214 juvenile green sea turtles with FP caught or rescued at Brazilian feeding areas, counted their 7466 tumors and classified them in relation to their size and anatomical distribution. The patterns in quantity, size and distribution of tumors revealed interesting aspects in the clinical manifestation of FP in specimens studied in Brazil, and that FP scoring systems developed for other areas might not perform adequately when applied to sea turtles on the Southwest Atlantic Ocean. We therefore propose a novel method to evaluate the clinical manifestation of FP: fibropapillomatosis index (FPI) that provides the Southwest Atlantic fibropapillomatosis score (FPSSWA). In combination, these indexing and scoring systems allow for a more objective, rapid and detailed evaluation of the severity of FP in green sea turtles. While primarily designed for the clinical manifestation of FP currently witnessed in our dataset, this index and the score system can be adapted for other areas and compare the characteristics of the disease across regions. In conclusion, scoring systems to classify the severity of FP can assist our understanding on the environmental factors that modulate its development and its impacts on the individual and population health of green sea turtles.

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<![CDATA[Transcriptomic responses to environmental temperature by turtles with temperature-dependent and genotypic sex determination assessed by RNAseq inform the genetic architecture of embryonic gonadal development]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5989db52ab0ee8fa60bdc64e

Vertebrate sexual fate is decided primarily by the individual’s genotype (GSD), by the environmental temperature during development (TSD), or both. Turtles exhibit TSD and GSD, making them ideal to study the evolution of sex determination. Here we analyze temperature-specific gonadal transcriptomes (RNA-sequencing validated by qPCR) of painted turtles (Chrysemys picta TSD) before and during the thermosensitive period, and at equivalent stages in soft-shell turtles (Apalone spinifera—GSD), to test whether TSD’s and GSD’s transcriptional circuitry is identical but deployed differently between mechanisms. Our data show that most elements of the mammalian urogenital network are active during turtle gonadogenesis, but their transcription is generally more thermoresponsive in TSD than GSD, and concordant with their sex-specific function in mammals [e.g., upregulation of Amh, Ar, Esr1, Fog2, Gata4, Igf1r, Insr, and Lhx9 at male-producing temperature, and of β-catenin, Foxl2, Aromatase (Cyp19a1), Fst, Nf-kb, Crabp2 at female-producing temperature in Chrysemys]. Notably, antagonistic elements in gonadogenesis (e.g., β-catenin and Insr) were thermosensitive only in TSD early-embryos. Cirbp showed warm-temperature upregulation in both turtles disputing its purported key TSD role. Genes that may convert thermal inputs into sex-specific development (e.g., signaling and hormonal pathways, RNA-binding and heat-shock) were differentially regulated. Jak-Stat, Nf-κB, retinoic-acid, Wnt, and Mapk-signaling (not Akt and Ras-signaling) potentially mediate TSD thermosensitivity. Numerous species-specific ncRNAs (including Xist) were differentially-expressed, mostly upregulated at colder temperatures, as were unannotated loci that constitute novel TSD candidates. Cirbp showed warm-temperature upregulation in both turtles. Consistent transcription between turtles and alligator revealed putatively-critical reptilian TSD elements for male (Sf1, Amh, Amhr2) and female (Crabp2 and Hspb1) gonadogenesis. In conclusion, while preliminary, our data helps illuminate the regulation and evolution of vertebrate sex determination, and contribute genomic resources to guide further research into this fundamental biological process.

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<![CDATA[Causes of Stranding and Mortality, and Final Disposition of Loggerhead Sea Turtles (Caretta caretta) Admitted to a Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in Gran Canaria Island, Spain (1998-2014): A Long-Term Retrospective Study]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5989da07ab0ee8fa60b7646e

Aims

The aims of this study were to analyze the causes of stranding of 1,860 loggerhead turtles (Caretta caretta) admitted at the Tafira Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in Gran Canaria Island, Spain, from 1998 to 2014, and to analyze the outcomes of the rehabilitation process to allow meaningful auditing of its quality.

Methods

Primary causes of morbidity were classified into seven categories: entanglement in fishing gear and/or plastics, ingestion of hooks and monofilament lines, trauma, infectious disease, crude oil, other causes, and unknown/undetermined. Final dispositions were calculated as euthanasia (Er), unassisted mortality (Mr), and release (Rr) rates. Time to death (Td) for euthanized and dead turtles, and length of stay for released (Tr) turtles were evaluated.

Results

The most frequent causes of morbidity were entanglement in fishing gear and/or plastics (50.81%), unknown/undetermined (20.37%), and ingestion of hooks (11.88%). The final disposition of the 1,634 loggerhead turtles admitted alive were: Er = 3.37%, Mr = 10.34%, and Rr = 86.29%. Er was significantly higher in the trauma category (18.67%) compared to the other causes of admission. The highest Mr was observed for turtles admitted due to trauma (30.67%). The highest Rr was observed in the crude oil (93.87%) and entanglement (92.38%) categories. The median Tr ranged from 12 days (unknown) to 70 days (trauma).

Conclusions

This survey is the first large-scale epidemiological study on causes of stranding and mortality of Eastern Atlantic loggerheads and demonstrates that at least 71.72% of turtles stranded due to anthropogenic causes. The high Rr (86.29%) emphasizes the importance of marine rehabilitation centers for conservation purposes. The stratified analysis by causes of admission of the three final disposition rates, and the parameters Td and Tr should be included in the outcome research of the rehabilitation process of sea turtles in order to allow comparative studies between marine rehabilitation centers around the world.

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<![CDATA[Environmental DNA (eDNA) Detection Probability Is Influenced by Seasonal Activity of Organisms]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5989da5fab0ee8fa60b90bc8

Environmental DNA (eDNA) holds great promise for conservation applications like the monitoring of invasive or imperiled species, yet this emerging technique requires ongoing testing in order to determine the contexts over which it is effective. For example, little research to date has evaluated how seasonality of organism behavior or activity may influence detection probability of eDNA. We applied eDNA to survey for two highly imperiled species endemic to the upper Black Warrior River basin in Alabama, US: the Black Warrior Waterdog (Necturus alabamensis) and the Flattened Musk Turtle (Sternotherus depressus). Importantly, these species have contrasting patterns of seasonal activity, with N. alabamensis more active in the cool season (October-April) and S. depressus more active in the warm season (May-September). We surveyed sites historically occupied by these species across cool and warm seasons over two years with replicated eDNA water samples, which were analyzed in the laboratory using species-specific quantitative PCR (qPCR) assays. We then used occupancy estimation with detection probability modeling to evaluate both the effects of landscape attributes on organism presence and season of sampling on detection probability of eDNA. Importantly, we found that season strongly affected eDNA detection probability for both species, with N. alabamensis having higher eDNA detection probabilities during the cool season and S. depressus have higher eDNA detection probabilities during the warm season. These results illustrate the influence of organismal behavior or activity on eDNA detection in the environment and identify an important role for basic natural history in designing eDNA monitoring programs.

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<![CDATA[Incubation Temperature Effects on Hatchling Performance in the Loggerhead Sea Turtle (Caretta caretta)]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5989db09ab0ee8fa60bc9928

Incubation temperature has significant developmental effects on oviparous animals, including affecting sexual differentiation for several species. Incubation temperature also affects traits that can influence survival, a theory that is verified in this study for the Northwest Atlantic loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta). We conducted controlled laboratory incubations and experiments to test for an effect of incubation temperature on performance of loggerhead hatchlings. Sixty-eight hatchlings were tested in 2011, and 31 in 2012, produced from eggs incubated at 11 different constant temperatures ranging from 27°C to 33°C. Following their emergence from the eggs, we tested righting response, crawling speed, and conducted a 24-hour long swim test. The results support previous studies on sea turtle hatchlings, with an effect of incubation temperature seen on survivorship, righting response time, crawling speed, change in crawl speed, and overall swim activity, and with hatchlings incubated at 27°C showing decreased locomotor abilities. No hatchlings survived to be tested in both years when incubated at 32°C and above. Differences in survivorship of hatchlings incubated at high temperatures are important in light of projected higher sand temperatures due to climate change, and could indicate increased mortality from incubation temperature effects.

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<![CDATA[Terminal Restriction Fragment Length Polymorphism for the Identification of Spirorchiid Ova in Tissues from the Green Sea Turtle, Chelonia mydas]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5989da45ab0ee8fa60b8b937

Blood flukes are among the most common disease causing pathogens infecting vertebrates, including humans and some of the world's most globally endangered fauna. Spirorchiid blood flukes are parasites of marine turtles, and are associated with pathology, strandings and mortalities worldwide. Their ova embolize in tissues and incite significant inflammatory responses, however attempts to draw correlations between species and lesions are frustrated by difficulties in identifying ova beyond the genus level. In this study, a newly developed terminal restriction fragment length polymorphism (T-RFLP) method was validated as a tool for differentiating between mixed spirorchiid ova in turtle tissue. Initially, a multiplex PCR was used to differentiate between the five genera of spirorchiid flukes. Following this, PCR was performed using genus/genera-specific fluorescently tagged primer pairs and PCR products digested analysis using restriction endonucleases. Using capillary electrophoresis, this T-RFLP method could differentiate between twelve species and genotypes of spirorchiid flukes in turtles. It was applied to 151 tissue samples and successfully identified the spirorchiid species present. It was found to be more sensitive than visual diagnosis, detecting infections in 28 of 32 tissues that were negative on histology. Spirorchiids were present in 96.7% of tissues tested, with Neospirorchis genotype 2 being the most prevalent, present in 93% of samples. Mixed infections were common, being present in 60.7% of samples tested. The method described here is, to our knowledge, the first use of the T-RFLP technique on host tissues or in an animal ecology context, and describes a significant advancement in the clinical capacity to diagnose a common cause of illness in our environment. It is proven as a sensitive, specific and cost-efficient means of identifying spirorchiid flukes and ova in turtles, with the potential to contribute valuable information to epidemiological and pathological studies as well as future diagnostics for this poorly understood disease.

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<![CDATA[Are Luxury Brand Labels and “Green” Labels Costly Signals of Social Status? An Extended Replication]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5989db4fab0ee8fa60bdb987

Costly signaling theory provides an explanation for why humans are willing to a pay a premium for conspicuous products such as luxury brand-labeled clothing or conspicuous environmentally friendly cars. According to the theory, the extra cost of such products is a signal of social status and wealth and leads to advantages in social interactions for the signaler. A previous study found positive evidence for the case of luxury brand labels. However, an issue of this study was that some of the experiments were not conducted in a perfectly double-blind manner. I resolved this by replicating variations of the original design in a double-blind procedure. Additionally, besides the luxury label condition, I introduced a “green” label condition. Thus, the hypothesis that signaling theory is able to explain pro-environmental behavior was tested for the first time in a natural field setting. Further, I conducted experiments in both average and below-average socioeconomic neighborhoods, where, according to signaling theory, the effects of luxury signals should be even stronger. In contrast to the original study, I did not find positive effects of the luxury brand label in any of the five experiments. Nor did I find evidence for a green-signaling effect. Moreover, in poor neighborhoods a negative tendency of the luxury label actually became evident. This suggests that a signaling theory explanation of costly labels must take into account the characteristics of the observers, e.g. their social status.

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<![CDATA[Characterization of the juvenile green turtle (Chelonia mydas) microbiome throughout an ontogenetic shift from pelagic to neritic habitats]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5989db5aab0ee8fa60bdf73e

The gut microbiome of herbivorous animals consists of organisms that efficiently digest the structural carbohydrates of ingested plant material. Green turtles (Chelonia mydas) provide an interesting model of change in these microbial communities because they undergo a pronounced shift from a surface-pelagic distribution and omnivorous diet to a neritic distribution and herbivorous diet. As an alternative to direct sampling of the gut, we investigated the cloacal microbiomes of juvenile green turtles before and after recruitment to neritic waters to observe any changes in their microbial community structure. Cloacal swabs were taken from individual turtles for analysis of the 16S rRNA gene sequences using Illumina sequencing. One fecal sample was also obtained, allowing for a preliminary comparison with the bacterial community of the cloaca. We found significant variation in the juvenile green turtle bacterial communities between pelagic and neritic habitats, suggesting that environmental and dietary factors support different bacterial communities in green turtles from these habitats. This is the first study to characterize the cloacal microbiome of green turtles in the context of their ontogenetic shifts, which could provide valuable insight into the origins of their gut bacteria and how the microbial community supports their shift to herbivory.

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<![CDATA[Hypothermic stunning of green sea turtles in a western Gulf of Mexico foraging habitat]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5989db53ab0ee8fa60bdcdaa

Texas waters provide one of the most important developmental and foraging habitats for juvenile green turtles (Chelonia mydas) in the western Gulf of Mexico, but hypothermic stunning is a significant threat and was the largest cause of green turtle strandings in Texas from 1980 through 2015; of the 8,107 green turtles found stranded, 4,529 (55.9%) were victims of hypothermic stunning. Additionally, during this time, 203 hypothermic stunned green turtles were found incidentally captured due to power plant water intake entrapment. Overall, 63.9% of 4,529 hypothermic stunned turtles were found alive, and 92.0% of those survived rehabilitation and were released. Numbers of green turtles recorded as stranded and as affected by hypothermic stunning increased over time, and were most numerous from 2007 through 2015. Large hypothermic stunning events (with more than 450 turtles documented) occurred during the winters of 2009–2010, 2010–2011, 2013–2014, and 2014–2015. Hypothermic stunning was documented between November and March, but peaked at various times depending on passage of severe weather systems. Hypothermic stunning occurred state-wide, but was most prevalent in South Texas, particularly the Laguna Madre. In the Laguna Madre, hypothermic stunning was associated with an abrupt drop in water temperatures strong northerly winds, and a threshold mean water temperature of 8.0°C predicted large turtle hypothermic stunning events. Knowledge of environmental parameters contributing to hypothermic stunning and the temporal and spatial distribution of turtles affected in the past, can aid with formulation of proactive, targeted search and rescue efforts that can ultimately save the lives of many affected individuals, and aid with recovery efforts for this bi-national stock. Such rescue efforts are required under the U.S. Endangered Species Act and respond to humanitarian concerns of the public.

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<![CDATA[Development of a Humane Slaughter Device for Green Turtles for Use by Traditional Owners in the Torres Strait Islands, Australia]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5989da10ab0ee8fa60b793ca

Marine turtles are caught and slaughtered for consumption as part of traditional indigenous community harvest in Australia as well as in many countries in which marine turtles can be found. However, changes to the Animal Care and Protection Act 2001 in 2012 resulted in Australian indigenous hunters becoming potentially liable to prosecution for using traditional practices to slaughter marine turtles. To provide indigenous hunters with an alternative scientifically tested method to hunt, we developed and tested a humane method as an option to use in indigenous communities. Between 2012 and 2015, a device was developed, tested on 11 carcasses to determine effectiveness and repeatability, used on 5 anaesthetised animals independently diagnosed as candidates for euthanasia, and ultimately used on 2 healthy, conscious animals as part of normal indigenous community subsistence harvesting under observation before being left with the communities for use. Feedback was sought from the communities on the suitability and potential adoption of the device. The device effectively ablated the hind brain and severed the spinal cord when deployed in 81% (9/11) of the tested carcasses, with death in 100% (5/5) of turtles, on average, within 78 seconds of deployment on anaesthetised turtles and death in 100% (2/2) of turtles, on average, within 144 seconds when deployed on healthy turtles within community. Failure to ablate the hindbrain and sever the spinal cord in the cadaver cases was due to incorrect deployment of the device. This device showed promise as an alternative euthanasia method available to indigenous communities of the Torres Straits. Further work is required to encourage acceptance by hunters.

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<![CDATA[Migration, Foraging, and Residency Patterns for Northern Gulf Loggerheads: Implications of Local Threats and International Movements]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5989daccab0ee8fa60bb4830

Northern Gulf of Mexico (NGoM) loggerheads (Caretta caretta) make up one of the smallest subpopulations of this threatened species and have declining nest numbers. We used satellite telemetry and a switching state-space model to identify distinct foraging areas used by 59 NGoM loggerheads tagged during 2010–2013. We tagged turtles after nesting at three sites, 1 in Alabama (Gulf Shores; n = 37) and 2 in Florida (St. Joseph Peninsula; n = 20 and Eglin Air Force Base; n = 2). Peak migration time was 22 July to 9 August during which >40% of turtles were in migration mode; the mean post-nesting migration period was 23.0 d (±13.8 d SD). After displacement from nesting beaches, 44 turtles traveled to foraging sites where they remained resident throughout tracking durations. Selected foraging locations were variable distances from tagging sites, and in 5 geographic regions; no turtles selected foraging sites outside the Gulf of Mexico (GoM). Foraging sites delineated using 50% kernel density estimation were located a mean distance of 47.6 km from land and in water with mean depth of −32.5 m; other foraging sites, delineated using minimum convex polygons, were located a mean distance of 43.0 km from land and in water with a mean depth of −24.9 m. Foraging sites overlapped with known trawling activities, oil and gas extraction activities, and the footprint of surface oiling during the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill (n = 10). Our results highlight the year-round use of habitats in the GoM by loggerheads that nest in the NGoM. Our findings indicate that protection of females in this subpopulation requires both international collaborations and management of threats that spatially overlap with distinct foraging habitats.

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<![CDATA[Inter-nesting movements and habitat-use of adult female Kemp’s ridley turtles in the Gulf of Mexico]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5989db50ab0ee8fa60bdc053

Species vulnerability is increased when individuals congregate in restricted areas for breeding; yet, breeding habitats are not well defined for many marine species. Identification and quantification of these breeding habitats are essential to effective conservation. Satellite telemetry and switching state-space modeling (SSM) were used to define inter-nesting habitat of endangered Kemp’s ridley turtles (Lepidochelys kempii) in the Gulf of Mexico. Turtles were outfitted with satellite transmitters after nesting at Padre Island National Seashore, Texas, USA, from 1998 through 2013 (n = 60); Rancho Nuevo, Tamaulipas, Mexico, during 2010 and 2011 (n = 11); and Tecolutla, Veracruz, Mexico, during 2012 and 2013 (n = 11). These sites span the range of nearly all nesting by this species. Inter-nesting habitat lies in a narrow band of nearshore western Gulf of Mexico waters in the USA and Mexico, with mean water depth of 14 to 19 m within a mean distance to shore of 6 to 11 km as estimated by 50% kernel density estimate, α-Hull, and minimum convex polygon methodologies. Turtles tracked during the inter-nesting period moved, on average, 17.5 km/day and a mean total distance of 398 km. Mean home ranges occupied were 725 to 2948 km2. Our results indicate that these nearshore western Gulf waters represent critical inter-nesting habitat for this species, where threats such as shrimp trawling and oil and gas platforms also occur. Up to half of all adult female Kemp’s ridleys occupy this habitat for weeks to months during each nesting season. Because inter-nesting habitat for this species is concentrated in nearshore waters of the western Gulf of Mexico in both Mexico and the USA, international collaboration is needed to protect this essential habitat and the turtles occurring within it.

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<![CDATA[Evolutionary and natural history of the turtle frog, Myobatrachus gouldii, a bizarre myobatrachid frog in the southwestern Australian biodiversity hotspot]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5989db52ab0ee8fa60bdc7ed

Southwest Australia (SWA) is a global biodiversity hotspot and a centre of diversity and endemism for the Australo-Papuan myobatrachid frogs. Myobatrachus gouldii (the turtle frog) has a highly derived morphology associated with its forward burrowing behaviour, largely subterranean habit, and unusual mode of reproduction. Its sister genera Metacrinia and Arenophryne have restricted distributions in Western Australia with significant phylogeographic structure, leading to the recent description of a new species in the latter. In contrast, Myobatrachus is distributed widely throughout SWA over multiple climatic zones, but little is known of its population structure, geographic variation in morphology, or reproduction. We generated molecular and morphological data to test for genetic and morphological variation, and to assess whether substrate specialisation in this species may have led to phylogeographic structuring similar to that of other plant and animal taxa in SWA. We assembled sequence data for one mitochondrial and four nuclear DNA loci (3628 base pairs) for 42 turtle frogs sampled throughout their range. Likelihood phylogenetic analyses revealed shallow phylogeographic structure in the mtDNA locus (up to 3.3% genetic distance) and little variation in three of the four nDNA loci. The mtDNA haplotype network suggests five geographically allopatric groups, with no shared haplotypes between regions. These geographic patterns are congruent with several other SWA species, with genetic groups restricted to major hydrological divisions, the Swan Coastal Plain, and the Darling Scarp. The geographically structured genetic groups showed no evidence of significant morphological differentiation (242 individuals), and there was little sexual size dimorphism, but subtle differences in reproductive traits suggest more opportunistic breeding in lower rainfall zones. Call data were compared to sister genera Metacrinia and Arenophryne and found to be highly conservative across the three genera. Like many taxa in SWA, topographic variation and Plio-Pleistocene arid fluctuations likely were historic drivers of diversification in M. gouldii.

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<![CDATA[Identification and evaluation of semiochemicals for the biological control of the beetle Omorgus suberosus (F.) (Coleoptera: Trogidae), a facultative predator of eggs of the sea turtle Lepidochelys olivacea (Eschscholtz)]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5989db4fab0ee8fa60bdbb4f

The beetle Omorgus suberosus (F.) is a facultative predator of eggs of the olive ridley turtle Lepidochelys olivacea (Eschscholtz). Laboratory and field investigations were conducted in order to characterize volatile attractants of O. suberosus and to explore the potential for application of these volatiles in a selective mass trapping method. Headspace sorptive extraction (HSSE) coupled to thermo-desorption gas chromatography–mass spectrometry (TD-GC-MS) analysis of the volatile constituents from beetles or turtle nests revealed 24 potential compounds. However, electroantennographic (EAG) measurements revealed antennal sensitivity only to indole, linoleic acid, trimethylamine, dimethyl sulphide, dimethyl disulphide and ammonia. Behavioural tests showed that these compounds are highly attractive to O. suberosus. Field trapping experiments revealed that indole and ammonia were more attractive than the other volatile compounds and showed similar attractiveness to that produced by conventional baits (chicken feathers). The use of a combined bait of indole and NH3 would therefore be the most effective trap design. The data presented are the first to demonstrate effective massive capture of O. suberosus using an attractant-based trapping method. These findings have potential for the development of an efficient mass trapping method for control of this beetle as part of efforts towards conservation of L. olivacea at La Escobilla in Oaxaca, Mexico.

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<![CDATA[Diatoms on the carapace of common snapping turtles: Luticola spp. dominate despite spatial variation in assemblages]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5989db4fab0ee8fa60bdba97

Filamentous algae are often visible on the carapaces of freshwater turtles and these algae are dominated by a few species with varying geographic distributions. Compared to filamentous algae, little is known about the much more speciose microalgae on turtles. Our objectives were to compare the diatom flora on a single turtle species (the common snapping turtle, Chelydra serpentina) across part of its range to examine spatial patterns and determine whether specific diatom taxa were consistently associated with turtles (as occurs in the filamentous alga Basicladia spp.). Using preserved turtle specimens from museums, we systematically sampled diatoms on the carapaces of 25 snapping turtles across five states. The diverse diatom assemblages formed two groups–the southern Oklahoma group and the northern Illinois/Wisconsin/New York group, with Arkansas not differing from either group. Of the six diatom species found in all five states, four species are widespread, whereas Luticola cf. goeppertiana and L. cf. mutica are undescribed species, known only from turtles in our study. L. cf. goeppertiana comprised 83% of the diatom abundance on Oklahoma turtles and was relatively more abundant on southern turtles (Oklahoma and Arkansas) than on northern turtles (where mean abundance/state was > 10%). L. cf. mutica was the most abundant species (40%) on New York turtles. Some Luticola species are apparently turtle associates and results support a pattern of spatial variation in Luticola species, similar to that in Basicladia. Using museum specimens is an efficient and effective method to study the distribution of micro-epibionts.

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