Research Summary: Embryonic Death Is Linked to Maternal Identity in the Leatherback Turtle (Dermochelys coriacea)

ABSTRACT

Leatherback turtles have an average global hatching success rate of ∼50%, lower than other marine turtle species. Embryonic death has been linked to environmental factors such as precipitation and temperature, although, there is still a lot of variability that remains to be explained. We examined how nesting season, the time of nesting each season, the relative position of each clutch laid by each female each season, maternal identity and associated factors such as reproductive experience of the female (new nester versus remigrant) and period of egg retention between clutches (interclutch interval) affected hatching success and stage of embryonic death in failed eggs of leatherback turtles nesting at Playa Grande, Costa Rica. Data were collected during five nesting seasons from 2004/05 to 2008/09. Mean hatching success was 50.4%. Nesting season significantly influenced hatching success in addition to early and late stage embryonic death. Neither clutch position nor nesting time during the season had a significant affect on hatching success or the stage of embryonic death. Some leatherback females consistently produced nests with higher hatching success rates than others. Remigrant females arrived earlier to nest, produced more clutches and had higher rates of hatching success than new nesters. Reproductive experience did not affect stage of death or the duration of the interclutch interval. The length of interclutch interval had a significant affect on the proportion of eggs that failed in each clutch and the developmental stage they died at. Intrinsic factors such as maternal identity are playing a role in affecting embryonic death in the leatherback turtle.

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Publisher: Public Library of Science

Date Published: 14-June-2011

Author(s): Rafferty A., Santidrián Tomillo P., Spotila J., Paladino F., Reina R.

Link: https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0021038

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