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Investigating Potential for Depensation in Marine Turtles: How Low Can You Go?

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Where mechanisms inherent within the biology of a species affect individual fitness at low density, demographic-scale depensation may occur, hastening further decline and leading ultimately to population extirpation and species extinction. Reduction in fertility at low population densities has been identified in marine and terrestrial species. Using data on hatch success and hatchling-emergence success as proxies for fertilization success, we conducted a global meta-analysis of data from breeding aggregations of green turtles (Chelonia mydas) and loggerhead turtles (Caretta caretta). We found that there has been no reduction in fertility in small nesting aggregations in either of these species worldwide. We considered mechanisms within the mating strategies and reproductive biology of marine turtles that may allow for novel genetic input and facilitate enhanced gene flow among rookeries. Behavioral reproductive mechanisms, such as natal philopatry and polyandry, may mitigate potential impacts of depensation and contribute to the resilience of these species.
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Keywords: Allee effects; anticompensación; depensation; efectos Allee; exploitation; explotación; marine turtles; population recovery; recuperación de la población; tortugas marinas

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Marine Turtle Research Group, Centre for Ecology and Conservation, University of Exeter, Cornwall Campus, Penryn TR10 9E2, United Kingdom

Publication date: February 1, 2010

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