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Naples Manor, FL, United States

Perrault J.R.,Mote Marine Laboratory | Schmid J.R.,Conservancy of Southwest Florida | Walsh C.J.,Mote Marine Laboratory | Yordy J.E.,Mote Marine Laboratory | Tucker A.D.,Mote Marine Laboratory
Harmful Algae

Because of their vulnerable population status, assessing exposure levels and impacts of toxins on the health status of Gulf of Mexico marine turtle populations is critical. From 2011 to 2013, two large blooms of the red tide dinoflagellate, Karenia brevis, occurred along the west coast of Florida USA (from October 2011 to January 2012 and October 2012 to April 2013). Other than recovery of stranded individuals, it is unknown how harmful algal blooms affected the Kemp's ridley sea turtles (Lepidochelys kempii) inhabiting the affected coastal waters. It is essential to gather information regarding brevetoxin exposure in these turtles to determine if it poses a threat to marine turtle health and survival. From April 2012 to May 2013, we collected blood from 13 immature Kemp's ridley turtles captured in the Pine Island Sound region of the Charlotte Harbor estuary. Nine turtles were sampled immediately after or during the red tide events (bloom group) while four turtles were sampled between the events (non-bloom group). Plasma was analyzed for total brevetoxins (reported as ng PbTx-3. eq/mL), superoxide dismutase (SOD) activity, total protein concentration and protein electrophoretic profiles (albumin, alpha-, beta- and gamma-globulins). Brevetoxin concentrations ranged from 7.0 to 33.8. ng PbTx-3. eq/mL. Plasma brevetoxin concentrations in the nine turtles sampled during or immediately after the red tide events were significantly higher (by 59%, P= 0.04) than turtles sampled between events. No significant correlations were observed between plasma brevetoxin concentrations and plasma proteins or SOD activity, most likely due to the small sample size; however alpha-globulins tended to increase with increasing brevetoxin concentrations in the bloom group. Smaller (carapace length and mass) bloom turtles had higher plasma brevetoxin concentrations than larger bloom turtles, possibly due to a growth dilution effect with increasing size. The research presented here improves the current understanding of potential impacts of environmental brevetoxin exposure on marine turtle health and survival. © 2014 Elsevier B.V. Source

Bjorndal K.A.,University of Florida | Schroeder B.A.,National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration | Foley A.M.,Florida Fish And Wildlife Conservation Commission | Witherington B.E.,University of Florida | And 18 more authors.
Marine Biology

In response to a call from the US National Research Council for research programs to combine their data to improve sea turtle population assessments, we analyzed somatic growth data for Northwest Atlantic (NWA) loggerhead sea turtles (Caretta caretta) from 10 research programs. We assessed growth dynamics over wide ranges of geography (9-33°N latitude), time (1978-2012), and body size (35.4-103.3 cm carapace length). Generalized additive models revealed significant spatial and temporal variation in growth rates and a significant decline in growth rates with increasing body size. Growth was more rapid in waters south of the USA (<24°N) than in USA waters. Growth dynamics in southern waters in the NWA need more study because sample size was small. Within USA waters, the significant spatial effect in growth rates of immature loggerheads did not exhibit a consistent latitudinal trend. Growth rates declined significantly from 1997 through 2007 and then leveled off or increased. During this same interval, annual nest counts in Florida declined by 43 % (Witherington et al. in Ecol Appl 19:30-54, 2009) before rebounding. Whether these simultaneous declines reflect responses in productivity to a common environmental change should be explored to determine whether somatic growth rates can help interpret population trends based on annual counts of nests or nesting females. Because of the significant spatial and temporal variation in growth rates, population models of NWA loggerheads should avoid employing growth data from restricted spatial or temporal coverage to calculate demographic metrics such as age at sexual maturity. © 2013 Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg. Source

Van Eaton A.R.,University of Florida | Van Eaton A.R.,Victoria University of Wellington | Zimmerman A.R.,University of Florida | Jaeger J.M.,University of Florida | And 3 more authors.
Marine and Freshwater Research

Reliable sedimentation histories are difficult to obtain in sandy or anthropogenically impacted coastal systems with disturbed sediment profiles and low initial radionuclide activities. This study addresses the problem using radionuclides in sediment cores from Naples Bay estuary, Florida, USA. Non-steady sedimentation and nuclide scavenging processes are shown to limit application of traditional radiometric dating models in this system. Whole-core inventories of excess 210Pb activity ( 210Pb xs) varied from 21 to 96dpmcm -2 among sites, and initial sediment 210Pb xs activities were low, decreasing non-uniformly with depth in most cores. Activities of three radioisotopes used for sediment dating ( 226Ra, 210Pb, and 137Cs) were compared with grain size and organic matter (OM) distributions to assess the factors that influence accumulation of radionuclides. Regression analysis indicated that radionuclide activities were more strongly correlated with OM content than with grain size parameters, and a novel OM-normalisation procedure was developed to correct for preferential nuclide associations. Normalised 210Pb xs profiles provide evidence for shifts in sedimentation rates and episodic erosion events in regions of the estuary where anthropogenic disturbance is known to have occurred. Our results emphasise the need to consider radionuclide scavenging by OM in sandy coastal sediments when establishing sedimentation histories. © CSIRO 2010. Source

Engeman R.M.,National Wildlife Research Center | Addison D.,Conservancy of Southwest Florida | Griffin J.C.,U.S. Department of Agriculture | Griffin J.C.,U.S. Air force

Nest predation can threaten marine turtle nesting success, and having to address dissimilar predator species complicates nest protection efforts. On Florida's Keewaydin Island predation by raccoons Procyon lotor and invasive feral swine Sus scrofa are disparate, significant threats to marine turtle nests. Using 6 years of nesting data (mostly for loggerhead marine turtles Caretta caretta) we examined the impacts of swine predation on nests and the benefits of swine eradication, caging nests to protect them from raccoon predation, and the effects of nest caging on swine predation. Nest predation by swine began in mid nesting season 2007, after which swine quickly annihilated all remaining marine turtle nests. During 2005-2010 raccoon predation rates for caged nests (0.7-20.4%) were significantly lower than for uncaged nests (5.6-68.8%) in every year except 2009, when little raccoon predation occurred. The proportions of eggs lost from raccoon-predated nests did not differ between caged and uncaged nests. Caging did not prevent destruction by swine but median survival time for caged nests was 11.5 days longer than for uncaged nests, indicating that caged eggs in nests have a greater chance of hatching before being predated by swine. The financial cost of the eradication of swine greatly outweighed the value of hatchlings lost to swine predation in 2007. © Fauna & Flora International 2014. Source

Waddle J.H.,U.S. Geological Survey | Dorazio R.M.,University of Florida | Dorazio R.M.,U.S. Geological Survey | Walls S.C.,U.S. Geological Survey | And 4 more authors.
Ecological Applications

Models currently used to estimate patterns of species co-occurrence while accounting for errors in detection of species can be difficult to fit when the effects of covariates on species occurrence probabilities are included. The source of the estimation problems is the particular parameterization used to specify species co-occurrence probability. We develop a new parameterization for estimating patterns of co-occurrence of interacting species that allows the effects of covariates to be specified quite naturally without estimation problems. In our model, the occurrence of one species is assumed to depend on the occurrence of another, but the occurrence of the second species is not assumed to depend on the presence of the first species. This pattern of co-occurrence, wherein one species is dominant and the other is subordinate, can be produced by several types of ecological interactions (predator-prey, parasitism, and so on). A simulation study demonstrated that estimates of species occurrence probabilities were unbiased in samples of 50-100 locations and three surveys per location, provided species are easily detected (probability of detection ≥ 0.5). Higher sample sizes (>200 locations) are needed to achieve unbiasedness when species are more difficult to detect. An analysis of data from treefrog surveys in southern Florida indicated that the occurrence of Cuban treefrogs, an invasive predator species, was highest near the point of its introduction and declined with distance from that location. Sites occupied by Cuban treefrogs were 9.0 times less likely to contain green treefrogs and 15.7 times less likely to contain squirrel treefrogs compared to sites without Cuban treefrogs. The detection probabilities of native treefrog species did not depend on the presence of Cuban treefrogs, suggesting that the native treefrog species are naive to the introduced species. © 2010 by the Ecological Society of America. Source

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