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Seasonality and interspecific and intraspecific asynchrony in emergence from the nest by hatchling freshwater turtles

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Timing of emergence from the natal nest is a variable trait in the life history of turtles. In theory, hatchling turtles that emerge synchronously, within and among nests, should gain a survival advantage over hatchlings that emerge independently. We examined emergence patterns for seven species of freshwater turtles that use a common nesting area in northern Indiana, USA. Hatchlings of four species emerged from the nest exclusively in late summer or early fall. However, hatchlings of three species usually overwintered in the nest chamber and emerged the following spring. Interspecific and intraspecific emergence from the nest was more synchronous in fall than in spring. Mean date of fall emergence from the nest did not vary among species; however, a species-specific pattern of emergence was observed in spring. Midland Painted Turtles (Chrysemys picta marginata Agassiz, 1857) emerged in late March and early April and, on average, these hatchlings left their nests 2 weeks earlier than Northern Map Turtles (Graptemys geographica (Le Sueur, 1817)) and 4 weeks earlier than Red-eared Sliders (Trachemys scripta elegans (Wied-Neuwied, 1839)). Although hatchlings of C. p. marginata are smaller than those of G. geographica and T. s. elegans, presumably they gain a survival or growth advantage by emerging earlier.

Keywords: Chrysemys picta marginata; Midland painted turtle; bet hedging; hibernation; minimisation des risques; phenology; phénologie; synchronie; synchrony; tortue peinte

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Department of Zoology, Miami University, Oxford, OH 45056, USA. 2: Department of Biology, Earlham College, Richmond, IN 47374, USA.

Publication date: 2013-04-16

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  • Published since 1929, this monthly journal reports on primary research contributed by respected international scientists in the broad field of zoology, including behaviour, biochemistry and physiology, developmental biology, ecology, genetics, morphology and ultrastructure, parasitology and pathology, and systematics and evolution. It also invites experts to submit review articles on topics of current interest.
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