Environment Marine turtles not fussy nesters

Marine turtles not fussy nesters

World-first research has measured the full spectrum of environmental clues that could be used by turtles when deciding where to lay their eggs.

The results have surprised University of the Sunshine Coast researchers investigating the types of nesting sites selected by turtles on the northern part of the Sunshine Coast between Mudjimba and Noosa.

The study, the first to use high-precision terrain imaging techniques in turtle research, found that most sites selected by the turtles did not have any features that were markedly different from random points nearby on the dunes.

However, the nesting sites shared some common characteristics – including a few that appeared contrary to previous studies in other marine turtle nesting locations.

Honours graduate, Ilana Kelly, said the nests were distributed in parts of the dune that did not have exceptionally lower or higher vegetation, or significant differences in slope, exposure or sand attributes.

“Remarkably, the level of light that we measured at nest locations was neither higher nor lower than nearby on the beach where they were no nests, although turtles did not nest on the very brightly lit beach sections such as Coolum and Marcoola South,” she said.

“While our work shows that turtles may be less selective than is widely believed, it is still critically important for future conservation to understand the common characteristics of good nesting beaches.

“Beach modifications by humans, such as sand nourishment or dune planting, may not always be helpful and should be carefully considered on a case-by-case basis.”

Marine turtles nest at night on Sunshine Coast beaches from November each year, with hatchlings generally leaving the nests from February to April.

The research was supervised by Lecturer in Physical Geography Dr Javier Leon and Professor of Marine Science Thomas Schlacher in collaboration with Dr Ben Gilby and Dr Andrew Olds, who both lecture in animal ecology at USC.

Read more about the USC research here. Story credit: University of the Sunshine Coast newsroom.

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