Do Local Environmental Factors and Lunar Cycle Influence Timing and Synchrony of Oviposition of a Turtle with Strict Nocturnal Nesting?

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Escalona, Tibisay
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Valenzuela, Nicole
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Ecology, Evolution and Organismal Biology

The Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Organismal Biology seeks to teach the studies of ecology (organisms and their environment), evolutionary theory (the origin and interrelationships of organisms), and organismal biology (the structure, function, and biodiversity of organisms). In doing this, it offers several majors which are codirected with other departments, including biology, genetics, and environmental sciences.

The Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Organismal Biology was founded in 2003 as a merger of the Department of Botany, the Department of Microbiology, and the Department of Zoology and Genetics.

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As leaders in statistical research, collaboration, and education, the Department of Statistics at Iowa State University offers students an education like no other. We are committed to our mission of developing and applying statistical methods, and proud of our award-winning students and faculty.
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Timing of nesting affects fitness of oviparous animals living in seasonal environments, and females may cue on environmental factors for their nesting behavior, but these relationships are understudied in tropical turtles. Here, the timing and synchrony of egg-laying relative to environmental factors were examined in the South American freshwater turtle Podocnemis unifilis on 11 nesting beaches during three nesting seasons. Daily measurements included number of nests laid, rainfall, river level, air temperature, and the phase of the lunar cycle (full moon, last quarter, new moon and first quarter). Results confirmed that P. unifilis nested at night and revealed that females in our population nest in groups from 2 to 17 females at a time. Nesting was not correlated with rainfall, but a significant relationship was found with river level, such that nesting started at the onset of the dry season when river levels dropped and nesting grounds emerged. Importantly, we found that (1) nesting events concentrated on days with intermediate daily maximum air temperature (although maxima changed annually), and that (2) larger groups of females nested around full moon, suggesting the reliance on visual cues to initiate nesting activities (consistent with social facilitation behavior). Altogether, the timing of nesting in P. unifilis may be shaped by a combination of environmental factors, moon phase and social facilitation, where visual cues play an important role.


This article is published as Escalona, Tibisay, Nicole Valenzuela, and Dean C. Adams. "Do Local Environmental Factors and Lunar Cycle Influence Timing and Synchrony of Oviposition of a Turtle with Strict Nocturnal Nesting?." Diversity 11, no. 5 (2019): 78. doi: 10.3390/d11050078.

Tue Jan 01 00:00:00 UTC 2019