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Nutrition and grazing behavior of the green turtle Chelonia mydas

Abstract

The apparent digestibility coefficients for 4 size classes of the green turtle Chelonia mydas feeding on the seagrass Thalassia testudinum were measured in Union Creek, Great Inagua, Bahamas, from September 1975 to August 1976. The values ranged from 32.6 to 73.9% for organic matter; from 21.5 to 70.7% for energy; from 71.5 to 93.7% for cellulose; from 40.3 to 90.8% for hemicellulose; and from 14.4 to 56.6% for protein. Digestive efficiency increased with increases in water temperature and body size. There was no seasonal variation in the nutrient composition of T. testudinum blades. Grazing on T. testudinum may be limited by its low quality as a forage, a result of its high fiber content and possible low protein availability. Turtles did not graze at random over the extensive beds of T. testudinum, but maintained “grazing plots” of young leaves by consistent recropping. They thus consumed a more digestible forage-higher in protein and lower in lignin-than the ungrazed, older leaves of T. testudinum. The selectivity of green turtles for either a seagrass or algal diet may reflect the specificity of their intestinal microflora.

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Communicated by J. M. Lawrence, Tampa

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Bjorndal, K.A. Nutrition and grazing behavior of the green turtle Chelonia mydas . Mar. Biol. 56, 147–154 (1980). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00397131

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Keywords

  • Cellulose
  • Hemicellulose
  • Young Leaf
  • Fiber Content
  • Nutrient Composition