Meeting Abstract

S5-2.1  Thursday, Jan. 5  Long term field study of sea kraits in New Caledonia: fundamental and conservation issues BONNET, X; CNRS CEBC France

A long term field study focusing on two sea krait species was set up in New Caledonia in 2002. More than 30 sites were sampled, and in most places mark-recapture procedure was implemented. The initial objectives were oriented toward fundamental issues and aimed to examine the adaptations to the amphibious life style of the sea kraits and the associated trade-offs to cope with terrestrial and aquatic environments. Rapidly however, the potential of the sea kraits as useful bio-indicators of marine biodiversity, of contamination by human activities (nickel mining for instance), and of the general trophic functioning of reef ecosystems became obvious. With more than 12,000 individuals marked and thousands of recaptures, the population functioning was assessed at large scale and revealed novel patterns. Notably, sea kraits tend exhibit fish like meta-population functioning despite the fact that their life style is clearly similar to those of other air breathing top predators (seabirds, seals, marine iguanas). Finally, several anecdotic events (rain falls…) provided unsuspected physiological insights of general importance to better understand both fundamental and conservation problems. One of the lessons of this long term study is that key results emerged in an unexpected way, but all were dependent from intensive field work.