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Feeding ecology of the green turtle (Chelonia mydas) at rocky reefs in western South Atlantic

Abstract

Feeding ecology of green turtles was investigated between January 2005 and April 2008 at Arvoredo Reserve, Brazil (27°17′S, 48°18′W). Data were obtained through the performance of observational sessions, geo-referenced counts, benthic surveys, capture and recapture of individuals, and oesophageal lavages. This protected area was identified as an important green turtle feeding ground, used year-round by juveniles (curved carapace length = 32–83 cm). Turtles fed close to the rocky shores of the area and selected grazing sites commonly at hard-to-reach, near-vertical portions of the rocks. They were less active in cold months, and more abundant at shallow areas of the reef (0–5 m), where their preferred food items occurred. Their diet was dominated by macroalgae species but invertebrates were also present. Their main food item was the red algae Pterocladiella capillacea, which seems to be eaten through periodical cropping of its tips. Observational methods such as the ones applied here could be incorporated to other research programs aiming to understand the relationships between Chelonia mydas feeding populations and their environment.

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Acknowledgments

We are indebted to PatadaCobra Diving Centre and the Brazilian Navy for logistic support in expeditions, and all personnel involved in data collection, especially M Lanari, M Copertino and T Gandra. We acknowledge Karumbé and Tamar for providing fieldwork training. We also thank O Oliveira for ctenophore species identification. M Proietti and J Reisser (Programa de Pós-Graduação em Oceanografia Biológica—FURG) have received M.Sc. scholarships from the National Council for Technological and Scientific Development (CNPq). E Secchi and I Sazima had a CNPq grant (305219/2008-1 and 300324/2005-7, respectively). This is a contribution of the Research Group “Ecologia e Conservação da Megafauna Marinha—EcoMega”.

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Correspondence to Júlia Reisser.

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Communicated by U. Sommer.

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Reisser, J., Proietti, M., Sazima, I. et al. Feeding ecology of the green turtle (Chelonia mydas) at rocky reefs in western South Atlantic. Mar Biol 160, 3169–3179 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00227-013-2304-7

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Keywords

  • Green Turtle
  • Rocky Reef
  • Diet Sample
  • Straight Carapace Length
  • Soluble Carbohydrate Content