Endangered Species Research
Many sea turtle nesting colonies are in decline worldwide, and a common conservation practice maximizes hatchling production by translocating eggs from threatened nests to protective beach hatcheries. Typically, translocated eggs are ‘doomed’, or at risk of death due to tidal inundation, predation, or poaching. Sea turtles exhibit temperature-dependent sex determination. We determined how primary sex ratios, estimated from incubation temperatures, were affected by egg clutch translocation to a beach hatchery. We monitored incubation temperatures of eastern Pacific leatherback turtles Dermochelys coriacea in hatchery and in situ clutches at Playa Grande, Costa Rica, throughout each nesting season from 1998 to 2007. In situ clutches were estimated to be 90% female, whereas hatchery clutches (9% of clutches) were estimated to be 64% female. Taking into account differences in hatching success of in situ and hatchery nests, the overall sex ratio was 83% female. The Playa Grande hatchery abiotic environment (sand temperatures, water inputs) was similar to that in situ . However, metabolic heating was significantly reduced in hatchery clutches. The most likely explanation is that temperatures in hatchery clutches were cooler (less female-biased) due to decreases in the number of metabolizing embryos since hatchling success was lower in hatchery clutches than in situ clutches. Alteration of both primary sex ratios and hatching success is the tradeoff for reducing the risk of death to egg clutches by translocation to a hatchery. This tradeoff is not unique to Playa Grande leatherback turtles, and it is a strong indication that hatchery translocation should be used cautiously.
Dermochelys coriacea, Doomed-egg translocation, Hatchlings, Male production
Biology | Ecology and Evolutionary Biology | Other Ecology and Evolutionary Biology | Population Biology
Frank V. Paladino (2011).
Sex ratios of leatherback turtles: hatchery translocation decreases metabolic heating and female bias. Endangered Species Research.15, 195-204.
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