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Hypothermic Stunning and Mortality of Marine Turtles in the Indian River Lagoon System, Florida

Blair E. Witherington and Llewellyn M. Ehrhart
Copeia
Vol. 1989, No. 3 (Aug. 8, 1989), pp. 696-703
DOI: 10.2307/1445497
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1445497
Page Count: 8
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
Hypothermic Stunning and Mortality of Marine Turtles in the Indian River Lagoon System, Florida
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Abstract

Periods of severely cold weather stunned marine turtles inhabiting the northern Indian River Lagoon System in Jan. 1977, 1978, 1981, 1985 and 1986. Morning surface water temperatures during these events generally were below 8.0 C (x̄ = 6.7 C, SD = 1.77). These events involved 342 green turtles, 123 loggerheads and 2 Kemp's ridleys. Most animals were rescued alive and released later. A greater proportion of resident green turtles than loggerheads was affected by the cold water. Size class distributions of green turtles captured in 1977 and 1981 indicate that an increase in recruitment occurred between those years. Impacts of these hypothermic stunning events on lagoonal populations, especially green turtles, are potentially devastating. A trapping effect exhibited by Mosquito Lagoon and the northern Indian River may prevent resident turtles from locating refuges thereby contributing to the occurrence of cold-stunning events there. As a possible result of frequent cold-stunning events, fewer green turtles inhabit Mosquito Lagoon than other parts of the Indian River Lagoon System.

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