August 1, 2013.
Leatherback hatchling fitness on land is essential for their success in entering the ocean without being predated. Two ways fitness on land may be measured are by how fast hatchlings crawl as well as how fast their righting responses are when they are flipped onto their carapaces. Hatchlings from certain nests have slower righting response times along with slower crawl times, both of which would increase the odds of predation and hinder the success of hatchlings reaching the ocean.
Hatchling crawling speed was determined by timing 12 randomly selected hatchlings from each nest to crawl a distance of two meters. To measure each of the 12 hatchlings’ righting response, hatchlings were laid on their carapace in a standardized divot and timed from the moment it was released from the researcher’s hand to the instant it began crawling after righting. Data were collected from almost 500 hatchlings from more than 40 nests.
Fitness and vigor in hatchlings may be an important indication of female fitness. Understanding how fitness is related to survivorship may strengthen our understanding of reproductive output and population dynamics in leatherback turtles, thus allowing us to develop more effective management plans for conservation.
Aquaculture and Fisheries | Biodiversity | Biology
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Southwest Fisheries Science Center (NOAA SWFSC)
This material is based upon work supported by the S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation and by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 0952013 and Grant No. 0833353. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation or the National Science Foundation. This project has also been made possible with support of the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation. The STAR program is administered by the Cal Poly Center for Excellence in Science and Mathematics Education (CESaME) on behalf of the California State University (CSU).