POPULATION ESTIMATE AND MIGRATION ROUTES OF THE LEATHERBACK TURTLE (DERMOCHELYS CORIACEA, VANDELLI) IN CIPARA AND QUEREPARE BEACHES, PARIA PENINSULA, VENEZUELA, BETWEEN THE YEARS 2000-2006
Capture-mark-recapture data, individual morphometrics (including size and growth), remigration data, and nesting population size (2000-2006) are presented for leatherback sea turtles (Dermochelys coriacea) in Cipara and Querepare, Paria Peninsula, Venezuela. From 502 tagged females, the average remigration interval for 41 individuals seen in subsequent years was 2.5 years. In Querepare, remigrants (previously tagged) and neophytes (untagged individuals) increased significantly; in Cipara, remigrants increased significantly but neophytes did not. Of 38 tagged females observed nesting at more than one beach during a nesting season, 73.6 % traveled between Cipara and Querepare (30 km) and 10.5 % the balance between Cipara or Querepare and Unare (10-30 km) and 7.9 % between Paria and Margarita Island (130 km), as well as 5.3 % internationally between Paria and Trinidad (240 km) and 2.6 % between Cipara and Dominica (550 km). Mean curved carapace length (CCL) and width (CCW) of 403 measured females was 151.78±6.20 cm and 110.03±4.42 cm, respectively. Of 46 nesting females measured during more than one reproductive season, mean growth in CCL and CCW was 0.85±1.10 cm*yr–1 and 0.64±0.56 cm*yr–1, respectively. There was no significant relationship between growth rate and initial size or remigration interval. Estimates of population size between 2000 (58 adult females, range: 28-113) and 2006 (277 adult females, range: 133–532) increased both significantly and exponentially (r= 0.966, p= 0.0004), with the study sites representing 1% of estimated world adult female population.
Leatherback turtle; Paria; Mark-recapture; Sizes; Adult growth
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