Shark-inflicted injury frequencies, escape ability, and habitat use of green and loggerhead turtles
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Interactions between large marine predators and their prey are difficult to observe and little is known about the risk of predation faced by sea turtles. The frequency of predator-inflicted injuries, however, has afforded insights into the predation risk faced by many taxa. We measured the frequency of shark-inflicted injuries on green (Chelonia mydas) and loggerhead (Caretta caretta) sea turtles in Shark Bay, Western Australia with a view to determining differences between species and sex-classes in the risk of predation from tiger sharks (Galeocerdo cuvier). Furthermore, we investigated how escape ability and habitat use might influence the probability of turtles being injured by sharks. Shark-inflicted injuries were more frequent on loggerhead than on green turtles, and most frequent on adult male loggerhead turtles. Species effects could not be attributed to differences in habitat use, since green turtles were found in habitats favored by tiger sharks more often than were loggerhead turtles. Green turtles, however, were faster and maneuvered better than loggerhead turtles, suggesting that escape ability is a factor in interspecific differences in injury frequency. The sex-class difference in injury frequency of loggerhead turtles suggests that males face greater predation risk than females and may take more risks. For green turtles, the lack of a sex difference in injury frequency might be due to greater escape ability lowering overall predation risk or to no differences between sexes in the benefits of risk-taking.
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