Predation Risk to Loggerhead Hatchlings at a High-density Nesting Beach in Southeast Florida
It has been suggested that mortality is high for early life history stages of long-lived vertebrates such as sea turtles. However, few studies have quantified mortality rates for these stages. We assessed the risk to loggerhead sea turtle hatchlings at the commencement of their offshore migration from a natural high-density nesting beach (Juno Beach, Florida), and at high-density (managed) open-beach hatchery sites. We followed individual hatchlings by kayak, at night as they left the beach, to document the proportion of turtles that survived their initial 15 min in the water. Of the 217 hatchlings followed, 206 survived for an observed survival rate of 95%. Tarpon were the most common predator observed. This in-water survival rate is much higher than that previously observed in the waters adjacent to a Florida hatchery (72%) and may be due to reduced risk associated with temporal and spatial variation in nest location at the natural beach, but not at the hatchery.
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Document Type: Research Article
Publication date: 2004-03-01
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