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18 June 2019 An Ethogram Describing the Nesting Behavior of Green Sea Turtles (Chelonia mydas)
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Abstract

Nesting in sea turtles involves a series of behavioral stages in which females ascend a coastal beach, move sand to bury and conceal eggs, and return to the sea. We created a partial ethogram of nesting stages in Green Sea Turtles (Chelonia mydas) from a central Florida Atlantic beach. We documented nesting stages through both in-person data collection and use of night-vision video-recording equipment for coding behaviors at a later date. The video-recorded footage allowed precise measurement of stage durations and descriptions of action patterns without observer effects. Using these methods, we recorded nesting behavior in 14 Green Sea Turtles, from which we measured limb and body movements, described nine modal action patterns, and identified seven distinct nesting stages—ascent, body pitting, digging, egg laying, covering, camouflaging, and descent. During body pitting and camouflaging stages, we found an inverse relationship between front flipper and rear flipper stroke rates. In body pitting, front flipper stroke rate decreased from start to finish, whereas rear flipper stroke rate increased over the duration of the stage. The inverse of this stroke rate pattern occurred during the camouflaging stage. Our work adds new detail to previous descriptions of Green Sea Turtles' nesting behavior, including a distinct transition between body pitting and digging. We compared our ethogram to previous studies on Green Sea Turtles' nesting behavior and propose these descriptions as a way to inform studies that test hypotheses concerning behavioral differences that might exist among populations, within populations over time, or between groups exposed to human disturbance or varied anthropogenic factors.

© 2019 by The Herpetologists' League, Inc.
Rebekah Lindborg, Emily Neidhardt, J. Rachel Smith, Benjamin Schwartz, Vivian Hernandez, Anne Savage, and Blair Witherington "An Ethogram Describing the Nesting Behavior of Green Sea Turtles (Chelonia mydas)," Herpetologica 75(2), 114-122, (18 June 2019). https://doi.org/10.1655/D-18-00015
Accepted: 7 January 2019; Published: 18 June 2019
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