Habitat use of a multispecific seagrass meadow by green turtles Chelonia mydas at Mayotte Island


We investigated the habitat use in green turtles exploiting a 13-ha multispecific seagrass meadow at Mayotte Island, south-western Indian Ocean. A phyto-ecological survey shows the occurrence of eight seagrass species, dominated by Halodule uninervis and Syringodium isoetifolium, distributed according to four distinct seagrass communities along the depth gradient. Direct underwater censuses show that green turtles occurred all over the meadow. Yet when community relative surface area was taken into account green turtles preferentially frequented the most seaward, biomass-richer S. isoetifolium-dominated community, suggesting that green turtles compensate for their intrinsically nutrient-poor herbivorous diet. Additionally, smaller (<80 cm standard curved carapace length, SCCL) individuals also preferentially occurred in the most shoreward H. univervis-dominated community where no larger (>80 cm SCCL) individuals were sighted, suggesting habitat use is indicative of diet selection and may reflect size-specific food requirements and physiology.

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We are grateful to the Department of Agriculture and Forestry of Mayotte (DAF), the General Council of Mayotte (CDM), and the Jardin Maoré Hotel for their financial and technical support. We especially thank D. Chanfi, K. Ahamed, M. Quillard and A. Mari (CDM), R. Rolland, J-P. Arnaud, A. Jamon (DAF), P. Stefanica, F. Bourgeois and B. Fichou (Jardin Maoré), J. Turquet (ARVAM), J.-P. Robin (CNRS IPHC, Strasbourg), the Oulanga na Nyamba Association and many volunteers for technical and field assistance. Funding was also provided by the Regional Council of Reunion Island, the European Social Fund (ESF), the French National Agency of Research (ANR “ESTVOI” project) and Kelonia. Finally, we would like to thank Simon Benhamou (CNRS CEFE, Montpellier) and the anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments on this manuscript.

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Correspondence to Katia Ballorain.

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Communicated by R. Lewison.

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Ballorain, K., Ciccione, S., Bourjea, J. et al. Habitat use of a multispecific seagrass meadow by green turtles Chelonia mydas at Mayotte Island. Mar Biol 157, 2581–2590 (2010).

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  • Green Turtle
  • Seagrass Meadow
  • Seagrass Species
  • Factorial Correspondence Analysis
  • Seagrass Coverage