Using Animal-Borne Imaging to Assess Green Turtle (Chelonia mydas) Foraging Ecology in Moreton Bay, Australia
Abstract:Traditional techniques for studying green turtle foraging ecology, such as the analysis of food availability and ingested dietary material, have concluded that green turtles are primarily herbivorous but selective foragers. However, green turtles that forage during Lyngbya majuscula blooms are exposed to toxins produced by the cyanobacterium overgrowing the seagrass. We used the Crittercam, an animal-borne imaging device, to observe green turtle foraging behavior in Moreton Bay, Australia, and to evaluate the system for assessing the impacts of Lyngbya blooms on green turtles. Eight large green turtles were captured while foraging on seagrass flats and each was fitted with a Crittercam. The deployments yielded over 28 hours of video and associated time-depth records. Turtles swam almost continuously and rarely stopped to feed on seagrass. Six turtles were observed feeding and all six consumed gelatinous animals from the water column. This prey source was previously undocumented in the Moreton Bay green turtle population but described in other green turtle populations using the Crittercam. Only one turtle was observed foraging on seagrass. The results of this study indicate that Crittercam technology can provide insight into turtle diet selection and that it will be a useful tool in identifying the impacts of Lyngbya blooms on green turtle feeding ecology. This study has also demonstrated that turtles in Moreton Bay may have a more flexible diet than previously described, indicating they could potentially supplement their diet with alternate prey items when seagrass quality or quantity is compromised. Longer deployment times, with an initial acclimation phase, are required to more fully understand questions pertaining to feeding ecology.
Document Type: Research Article
Publication date: December 1, 2007
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