Meeting Abstract

P2.147  Thursday, Jan. 5  Physiological measures of health and reproductive success in leatherback sea turtles (Dermochelys coriacea) PERRAULT, Justin R*; MILLER, Debra L; WYNEKEN, Jeanette; Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton; Center for Wildlife Health, Department of Forestry, Wildlife and Fisheries, University of Tennessee, Knoxville; Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton

The leatherback sea turtle (Dermochelys coriacea) exhibits the lowest and most variable hatching success of the sea turtle species. We explored physiological measures of maternal health as correlates of low success in this species. We evaluated several metrics of maternal condition from blood for Florida’s nesting leatherback population, established a large sample of baseline health parameters, and correlated these values with hatching success of the nesting females' eggs. We found that several measures of maternal condition correlated with hatching success: alkaline phosphatase, calcium, phosphorus, calcium:phosphorus ratio, cholesterol, gamma globulin protein, and total erythrocyte count. These physiological metrics are the first quantitative indicators that maternal health is important to reproductive success. While maternal health has been documented to impact several vital rates in other species, this is the first study of any sea turtle showing that some aspects of health may explain at least annual vital rates. Because turtles are physiologically resilient animals, it is likely that sublethal effects on health may manifest in reproductive compromises that we detected. Long-term and comparative studies are needed to determine if certain individuals historically and consistently produce nests with lower hatching success than others and if leatherback turtles with evidence of chronic suboptimal health consistently have lower reproductive success.