Diet selection by a species is determined by comparing the consumption (i.e., use) and abundance (i.e., availability) of prey within their area of occupancy. Because individuals commonly use only a portion of habitat available to them (e.g., a 10-ha home range within a 1000-ha foraging habitat), it is important to quantify forage availability within individuals’ home ranges and core areas, and include these availabilities when calculating diet selection. However, studies of diet selection often consider prey availability across the entire foraging habitat of a species and not within individual home ranges/core areas. Here, we explore how spatial variability in prey availability may influence the results of diet selection for juvenile green turtles, Chelonia mydas, foraging in Bimini, Bahamas. Stable isotope analysis was used to determine prey use and satellite telemetry to infer movements and forage availability for each turtle. Forage availability was assessed at three spatial scales: (1) the full extent of the foraging area (2) across each respective individual’s 95% utilization distribution (UD), or home ranges, and (3) across each individual’s 50% UD, or core areas. Further, we compared potential differences in diet selection by using three selection indices (Ivlev’s, Johnson’s and Chesson’s). Diet selection results varied among individuals and were influenced by the spatial scale of forage items available and the index used. Diet selection variability was observed at various spatial scales and in all indices. Our results highlight the need for careful consideration of the diet selection index and the spatial scale at which prey/forage availability is considered when determining a species’ diet selection. Selecting a more sensitive index will help identify priority resources and/or habitats that are important to species, which in turn carries conservation and management implications.
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We are grateful to National Geographic, Save our Seas Foundation and the Florida State University Council on Research and Creativity for their contributions towards funding this study. We are also grateful to Dr. Samuel Gruber, Dr. Tristan Guttridge, the managers and volunteers from Bimini Biological Field Station Foundation for their assistance with logistics during field work. Further, we are grateful to Dr. Camila Domit at Universidade Federal do Prana and Christian Gredzens for their assistance in field sampling. Our gratitude is also extended to Ethan Goddard from the Paleoclimatology, Paleoceanography and Biogeochemistry Laboratory at the University of South Florida College of Marine Science, Susan Murasko from Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Garrett Lemons and Joel Schumacher from the NOAA-Southwest Fisheries Service Center for their assistance in sample preparation and analysis. We are grateful to Erin LaCasella and Gabriela Serra-Valente from NOAA-Southwest Fisheries Service Center for their assistance with CITES importation. We would also like to thank Ian Silver-Gorges, journal reviewers and editor for assisting in the editorial process and helping ready this manuscript for publication.
Funding for this project was provided by National Geographic (CS 203_16), Save Our Sea Foundation and the Florida State University Council on Research and Creativity.
Conflicts of interest/Competing interest
Further, there are no conflicts of or competing interests associated with this project or manuscript preparation.
Sampling carried out for this project was permitted under the Bahamian research permits (MAMR/LIA/22) and Florida State University Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee permit (Protocol #1521). All sampling techniques and out-of-water handling times, as set out in the IACUC permit, were strictly followed ensuring the proper care of each individual turtle sampled. Further, international transportation of endangered species samples was permitted under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species permit (USFWS CITES Import Permit #16US844694/9 and Bahamas CITES Export Permit #2016/516).
Consent for participation is not applicable to this study as there were no human test subjects.
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Gillis, A.J., Wildermann, N.E., Ceriani, S.A. et al. Evaluating different spatial scales of forage item availability to determine diet selection of juvenile green turtles (Chelonia mydas). Mar Biol 167, 170 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00227-020-03782-y