Ingestion of anthropogenic debris by marine species has been documented extensively; fewer studies have attempted to quantify the sublethal effects caused by debris ingestion. One potential sublethal effect is reduced nutrient gains from diets diluted by consumption of debris. Post-hatchling and juvenile loggerhead sea turtles (Caretta caretta) consume substantial quantities of debris. We evaluated the effects of dietary dilution on voluntary intake in post-hatchling loggerheads to assess their ability to compensate for the presence of inert diluents in their diet by increasing dry mass intakes to maintain nutrient gains. Mean daily intakes of dry mass did not increase significantly with dietary dilution, so intakes of energy and nitrogen on a 50% dilution diet were significantly lower than on a 10% dilution diet. Therefore, post-hatchling loggerheads have an extremely limited ability to compensate for dietary dilution and would experience sublethal effects from decreased energy and nitrogen gains on dilute diets. Decreased nutrient intakes have serious conservation implications because of possible decreased growth rates, longer developmental periods at sizes most vulnerable to predation, depleted energy reserves, reduced reproductive output, and decreased survivorship.



Publisher statement

This is the pre-peer reviewed version of the following article: Conservation Implications of Dietary Dilution from Debris Ingestion: Sublethal Effects in Post-Hatchling Loggerhead Sea Turtles, Shannon J. Mccauley And Karen A. Bjorndal, Conservation Biology, 13:4.

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