Large-scale investment in the excavation and ‘camouflaging’ phases by nesting leatherback turtles (Dermochelys coriacea)

Burns, T.J., Davidson, H. and Kennedy, M.W. (2016) Large-scale investment in the excavation and ‘camouflaging’ phases by nesting leatherback turtles (Dermochelys coriacea). Canadian Journal of Zoology, 94(6), pp. 443-448. (doi:10.1139/cjz-2015-0240)

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Abstract

Nesting female leatherback turtles, Dermochelys coriacea Vandelli, 1761, are ungainly and vulnerable to predation, stranding and physiological stress, dangers encountered repeatedly in a nesting season. Minimising these risks must be balanced against optimising investment in nest site selection, excavation, re-filling, and concealment of their egg clutches. We investigated the relative investment in the different phases of nesting in leatherback turtles by recording the duration of, and respiratory frequency during, each phase. Nest excavation and the final sand scattering (usually termed ‘camouflage’ or ‘disguise’) phases were the longest in duration. By combining the relative durations of nesting phases with literature estimates of oxygen consumption, we found that these may be the most expensive phases energetically, sand scattering in particular. Leatherback turtles follow convoluted paths during the sand scattering phase, which were mapped and measured. They disturb large areas (mean 30.3 + 11.1 m2, maximum 57 m2), the centroids of which were always offset from the nest itself. Interestingly, in none of 26 nestings observed did the centre line of females move over the nest itself. Nesting leatherbacks therefore invest heavily in obscuring the egg clutch, and the pattern of their movements in doing so suggests decoy behaviour.

Item Type:Articles
Status:Published
Refereed:Yes
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Kennedy, Professor Malcolm and Burns, Mr Thomas
Authors: Burns, T.J., Davidson, H., and Kennedy, M.W.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > Institute of Biodiversity Animal Health and Comparative Medicine
Journal Name:Canadian Journal of Zoology
Publisher:NRC Research Press
ISSN:0008-4301
ISSN (Online):1480-3283
Published Online:26 April 2016
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2016 The Authors
First Published:First published in Canadian Journal of Zoology 94(6):443-448
Publisher Policy:Reproduced in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher

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