Marine Biology

, Volume 162, Issue 1, pp 123–139 | Cite as

Ecology of solitary nesting olive ridley sea turtles at Playa Grande, Costa Rica

  • Tera C. DornfeldEmail author
  • Nathan J. Robinson
  • Pilar Santidrián Tomillo
  • Frank V. Paladino


Olive ridley turtles (Lepidochelys olivacea) have two distinct mating systems: independent (solitary) and synchronized and mass assemblages (arribadas). Arribada nesting beaches have been the focus of most research, even though solitary nesting is the most common behavior. The purpose of this study was to assess the contribution of solitary nesting turtles to the olive ridley turtle population. We studied the nesting ecology of solitary nesting olive ridley turtles within the national park Parque Nacional Marino Las Baulas (PNMB) in Playa Grande, Costa Rica (10°20′N, 85°51′W) and compared these turtles to nearby arribada turtles. Between 2009/2010 and 2013/2014, an estimated 933 nesting activities occurred within PNMB. This number of turtles has not changed significantly since 1995. During this study, 285 females were tagged; of these, 30 females were encountered nesting on more than one occasion. Significantly, more females emerged (31.1 % of tracks) during the third-quarter moon, often a predictor of arribada events, than any other moon phase. However, there was no significant change in nesting activity at PNMB during nearby arribada events. Mean hatching success (78.5 ± 23.4 % SD) was higher, and incubation temperatures were lower (ranging from 28.3 to 33.4 °C) than at nearby arribada beaches. Thus, clutches are relatively successful and may produce males. These data suggest that solitary olive ridley turtles are important. Currently, PNMB protects turtles from October to March; however, hatching success was highest and 40 % of nesting activity occurred during the rainy season (August–November). More turtles could be protected by increasing the temporal scope of park protection.


Adult Emergence Hatching Success Moon Phase Nest Season Nest Temperature 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We would like to thank R. Valverde, F. Arroyo, C. Figgener, L. Fonseca, and C. M. Orrego for generously sharing data. The manuscript greatly benefited from the insightful comments of J. Houghton, K. Shanker, and an anonymous reviewer. Funding was provided by the Jack W. Schrey Distinguished Professorship Grant, The Leatherback Trust, and the Earthwatch Institute. We are grateful for the help from numerous Earthwatch volunteers and Las Baulas project field assistants for help with data collection. J. Seminoff and NOAA provided metal tags. The study followed the protocols of the Purdue University Animal Care, and research permits were obtained from the Ministry of Environment and Energy of Costa Rica (MINAE).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tera C. Dornfeld
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Nathan J. Robinson
    • 3
  • Pilar Santidrián Tomillo
    • 4
  • Frank V. Paladino
    • 2
  1. 1.University of California IrvineIrvineUSA
  2. 2.Department of BiologyIndiana University-Purdue University Fort WayneFort WayneUSA
  3. 3.Department of BiologyPurdue UniversityWest LafayetteUSA
  4. 4.Population Ecology GroupInstitut Mediterrani d’ Estudis Avançats, IMEDEA (CSIC-UIB)MallorcaSpain

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