Marine Biology

, Volume 115, Issue 1, pp 1-5

First online:

Feeding ecology of the loggerhead sea turtle Caretta caretta in the Northwestern Gulf of Mexico

  • P. T. PlotkinAffiliated withMarine Science Institute, The University of Texas at Austin
  • , M. K. WickstenAffiliated withDepartment of Biology, Texas A&M University
  • , A. F. AmosAffiliated withMarine Science Institute, The University of Texas at Austin

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Digestive tract contents collected from carcasses of 82 loggerhead sea turles (Caretta caretta) found on the south Texas coast from 1986 through 1988 were examined. Benthic invertebrates were the predominant prey. Sea pens (Virgularia presbytes), crabs, and mollusks accounted for 94% of the dry weight of the digestive tract samples. Temporal changes in the percent occurrence and percent dry weight of sea pens, crabs, and mollusks in the digestive tract samples were significant. Loggerheads fed primarily on sea pens during spring, then primarily on crabs during summer and fall. The increase of crabs in the loggerhead diet paralleled the annual increase in the abundance of crabs in the Gulf of Mexico. Sea pens were located nearshore at depths of 6 to 12 m and had a disjunct distribution.