Predation of Leatherback Turtle Hatchlings During the Crawl to the Water

Document Type


Publication Date

Winter 2010

Publication Source

Chelonian Conservation and Biology






Chelonian Research Foundation

Peer Reviewed



The high probability of being depredated on the crawl to the water may have influenced the behavior of hatchling sea turtles on the beach through evolutionary processes.During this time hatchlings must move rapidly, locate water, and move as quickly as possible in order to reduce the time spent on the beach. Hatchling leatherback turtles (Dermochelys coriacea) at Playa Grande, Parque Nacional Marino Las Baulas, Costa Rica, spent on average 34 minutes visible on the beach, covered a distance of 46.8 m and moved at a rate of 3.11 m/min. During the time on the beach, 12 % of hatchlings were eaten by predators, 83% reached the water, and 5% were determined potential mortality (hatchlings were stuck on debris, vegetation or upside down). The main predators of hatchling leatherbacks at Playa Grande were ghost crabs (Ocypode occidentalis ), great blue herons (Ardea herodias), and yellow-crowned night herons (Nycticorax violaceus ) during the night, and crested caracaras (Caracara plancus) during the day. Tracks left by the hatchlings on the sand were straighter as these approached the water. Dispersion (distance between the 2 outermost tracks coming from a nest) was correlated with number of hatchlings crawling. Hatchling leatherback turtles at Playa Grande are threatened by predation by domestic animals. Hatchling mortality due to human-related activities is likely to increase in the future due < to increasing pressure from tourism at Parque Nacional Marino Las Baulas.


Reptilia; Testudines; Dermochelyidae; Dermochelys coriacea; predator; sea turtle; dispersion, ghost crab; beach


Animal Sciences | Biodiversity | Biology | Ecology and Evolutionary Biology | Marine Biology | Population Biology

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