Influence of incubation temperature on morphology and locomotion performance of Leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea) hatchlings

Mickelson, L.E. and Downie, J.R. (2010) Influence of incubation temperature on morphology and locomotion performance of Leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea) hatchlings. Canadian Journal of Zoology, 88(4), pp. 359-368. (doi: 10.1139/Z10-007)

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The journey of Leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea (Vandelli, 1761)) hatchlings from nest to the sea is a vulnerable life-history stage. Studies have shown that nest incubation temperatures influence hatchling morphology and locomotor performance, which may affect hatchling fitness. We obtained incubation temperature profiles from 16 Leatherback nests in Tobago, West Indies, during the 2008 nesting season (March-June). There was significant variation among mean nest incubation temperatures, which had a significant influence on hatchling morphology. Using principal components analysis, we determined the morphological traits that explained the most variation among hatchlings, which allowed investigation of the relationship between hatchling morphology and terrestrial locomotion speed. Hatchlings with a narrower carapace width and longer flipper reach (produced at lower incubation temperatures) had significantly faster terrestrial speed and total run time than those with opposite characteristics (produced at higher incubation temperatures). Our results demonstrate that lower incubation temperatures produce hatchlings with traits that are significantly advantageous to terrestrial locomotion. These findings suggest that nest incubation temperature is important in determining hatchling fitness, as nest incubation temperature significantly influences hatchling morphology and locomotor capabilities. This study supplements related findings in Green Turtles (Chelonia mydas (L., 1758)), but also illustrates some unique features in Leatherbacks.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Downie, Professor J
Authors: Mickelson, L.E., and Downie, J.R.
Subjects:Q Science > QL Zoology
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences
Journal Name:Canadian Journal of Zoology
Publisher:National Research Council Canada
ISSN (Online):1480-3283
Published Online:05 March 2010
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2010 National Research Council Canada
First Published:First published in Canadian Journal of Zoology 88(4):359-368
Publisher Policy:Reproduced in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher

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