Investigating diet and diet switching in green turtles (Chelonia mydas)

Prior, Bonita, Booth, David T. and Limpus, Colin J. (2016) Investigating diet and diet switching in green turtles (Chelonia mydas). Australian Journal of Zoology, 63 6: 365-375. doi:10.1071/ZO15063

Author Prior, Bonita
Booth, David T.
Limpus, Colin J.
Title Investigating diet and diet switching in green turtles (Chelonia mydas)
Formatted title
Investigating diet and diet switching in green turtles (Chelonia mydas)
Journal name Australian Journal of Zoology   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 1446-5698
Publication date 2016-01-08
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1071/ZO15063
Open Access Status Not Open Access
Volume 63
Issue 6
Start page 365
End page 375
Total pages 11
Place of publication Clayton, VIC, Australia
Publisher CSIRO
Language eng
Formatted abstract
Understanding the dietary ecology of animals provides information about their habitat requirements, facilitating informed conservation. We used last-bite diet and stable isotope analysis to assess the diet of juvenile and adult green turtles (Chelonia mydas) at two different habitats located 10 km apart within Port Curtis, Queensland, Australia. Last-bite diet analysis indicated that turtles had distinctly different diets in these two habitats: in one the diet was dominated by red macroalgae and in the other the diet was dominated by seagrass. Only juveniles (n = 12) were caught in the habitat where red macroalgae dominated the diet, while both juveniles (n = 9) and adults (n = 38) were captured in the habitat where seagrass dominated the diet. In the seagrass habitat there was no difference in diet between juveniles and adults, and no difference in diet between adult males (n = 17) and females (n = 21).

Because the red macroalgae and seagrass had distinctly different carbon stable isotope ratios, it was possible to detect a change in diet by comparing the carbon stable isotope ratio between serum and epidermal tissue sampled from the same turtle. In this region, a switch in diet would reflect a shift in foraging habitat. Such comparisons indicate that ~50% of turtles switched diet, and therefore changed foraging habitat between the time when blood serum and epidermis were formed. This implies that switching foraging habitat by green turtles within this region is a common occurrence, which is somewhat surprising because previously it was thought that foraging green turtles had high site fidelity with relatively small home ranges.
Keyword Foraging
Sea turtle
Stable isotopes.
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Provisional Code
Institutional Status UQ

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Article (original research)
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