Sea Turtle Ecology

Day 3: Kayaking in Salybia
by -- March 25th, 2010

Tuesday March 23 — Kayaking in Salybia and turtle watching in Matura

We had the morning off after our late night on the beach. Then in the afternoon we headed to Salybia to do some kayaking. We paddled to a section of the river we couldn’t cross, but fortunately we were just a short walk away from a deep pool with a “rope swing” made of vines. We all took our turns, but the lifeguard that accompanied us was the best! On our way there, we found hundreds of tiny Cane Toads who were newly metamorphed and were smaller than our pinky nail! In the river, there were lots of very interestingly patterned snails, from zebra to striped.

That night we made our way to the beach from 7:30 p.m. – 1 a.m. for more leatherbacks! Everyone got to see at least one nesting female, and Team Egg (the two groups working on egg related projects) saw 5 nesting females, 2 of whom false-crawled, and 3 that successfully laid. We were able to collect good data from 2 of the females and the 3rd one we just watched. Our first nester of the night jumped when she was just about finished and shifted positions so that she wasn’t directly over the nest.  This led to her accidentally digging up some of her shallower eggs while doing the covering process. But overall, it was a great and successful night!

Team Egg’s research projects have to do with reproductive output and false eggs. One group, Christen, Carolyn, and Jazmin, are analyzing the female’s reproductive output by measuring the diameter of the egg, the size of the female, and the number of eggs in the clutch. Our group, Tiff, Nicole, and Maggie, are taking that data as well as weighing the eggs and also counting the number of false or yolkless eggs.  We are then going to correlate female size to the number of duds per clutch to determine if there is a connection and attempt to explain why leatherbacks take the energy to produce false eggs. Leatherback sea turtles are the only species to consistently lay false eggs with every clutch.

Tomorrow, we’re heading out on the North Coast Adventure where we’ll be visiting a lighthouse, hiking up a river, and checking out Grand Riviere — the highest density leatherback nesting beach in the world!

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