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Feeding Ecology of Wild and Head-Started Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtles in South Texas Waters

Donna J. Shaver
Journal of Herpetology
Vol. 25, No. 3 (Sep., 1991), pp. 327-334
DOI: 10.2307/1564592
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1564592
Page Count: 8
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Feeding Ecology of Wild and Head-Started Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtles in South Texas Waters
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Abstract

Digestive tract contents were examined from 101 dead Kemp's ridley turtles, Lepidochelys kempi, found stranded on south Texas beaches from 1983-1989. Fifty turtles were wild and 51 had been head-started (captively-reared) for 6-9 months. Fifty-one were found on bay (inshore water) and 50 on Gulf of Mexico (offshore water) shorelines. Ogren (1989) stated that juveniles (<20 cm carapace length) are surface feeders and consume a variety of food items, while subadults (20-60 cm carapace length) and adults (>60 cm carapace length) are predominately benthic feeders and eat mostly crabs. It appears, from analysis of gut contents, that wild and head-started turtles are foraging in water depths of less than 50 m and that they will consume items discarded from shrimp trawls and smaller trawls fishing for bait items. Significant differences occur between various dietary parameters measured for wild and post-release head-started turtles. However, there are similarities between the diets of both groups and head-started turtles appear to be adapting to feeding in the wild. Size and habitat differences are primary causes of dietary divergences among L. kempi.

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