Egg Components, Egg Size, and Hatchling Size in Leatherback Turtles

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Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology Part A





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Relationships between egg size, egg components, and neonate size have been investigated across a wide range of oviparous taxa. Differences in egg traits among taxa reflect not only phylogenetic differences, but also interactions between biotic (i.e., maternal resource allocation) and abiotic (i.e. nest environment conditions) factors. We examined relationships between egg mass, egg composition, and hatchling size in leatherback turtles (Dermochelys coriacea) because of the unique egg and reproductive characteristics of this species and of sea turtles in general. Albumen comprised 63.0% ± 2.8% (mean ± S.D.) of egg mass and explained most of the variation in egg mass, whereas yolk comprised only 33.0% ± 2.7%. Additionally, leatherback albumen dry mass was ∼ 16% of albumen wet mass. Whereas hatchling mass increased significantly with egg mass (n = 218 clutches), hatchling mass increased by only approximately 2 g for each 10 g increase in egg mass and was approximately 10–20 g greater than yolk mass. Taken together, our results indicate that albumen might play a particularly significant role in leatherback embryonic development, and that leatherback eggs are both capable of water uptake from the nest substrate and also possess a large reservoir of water in the albumen. Relationships between egg mass and egg components, such as variation in egg mass being largely explained by variation in albumen mass and egg mass containing a relatively high proportion of albumen solids, are more similar to bird eggs than to eggs of other non-avian reptiles. However, hatchling mass correlates more with yolk mass than with albumen mass, unlike patterns observed in bird eggs of similar composition.


eggs, hatchlings, leatherback sea turtles


Medical Sciences


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