Royal Society Publishing

Trophic status drives interannual variability in nesting numbers of marine turtles

Annette C. Broderick, Brendan J. Godley, Graeme C. Hays

Abstract

Large annual fluctuations are seen in breeding numbers in many populations of non–annual breeders. We examined the interannual variation in nesting numbers of populations of green (Chelonia mydas) (n = 16 populations), loggerhead (Caretta caretta) (n =10 populations), leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea) (n = 9 populations) and hawksbill turtles (Eretmochelys imbricata) (n = 10 populations). Interannual variation was greatest in the green turtle. When comparing green and loggerhead turtles nesting in Cyprus we found that green turtles were more likely to change the interval between laying seasons and showed greater variation in the number of clutches laid in a season. We suggest that these differences are driven by the varying trophic statuses of the different species. Green turtles are herbivorous, feeding on sea grasses and macro–algae, and this primary production will be more tightly coupled with prevailing environmental conditions than the carnivorous diet of the loggerhead turtle.

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