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3 March 2020 Diet of an Assemblage of Four Species of Turtles (Podocnemis) in the Rio Uatumã, Amazonas, Brazil
Fernando L. R. Cunha, Rafael Bernhard, Richard C. Vogt
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The structure and functioning of freshwater turtle communities remain understudied topics, especially in tropical regions where biodiversity is higher. The objective of our study was to compare the diets of Podocnemis erythrocephala ,P. expansa, P. sextuberculata, and P. unifilis living in syntopy in Amazonas, Brazil. We tested for qualitative and quantitative variations in the way different species used the same available food resources. We collected fresh stomach flushings from all turtles captured in trammel nets in three lakes in 2012. Sampling was conducted in the four distinct tropical seasons: beginning of rainy season (rising water), peak of rainy season (rapidly rising water), end of rainy season (highest flooded forest water level), and dry season (when water levels were receding). We tested the hypothesis that different food items are available in different quantities at different times of the year due to the seasonality of fruiting trees and other plants in response to the wet and dry conditions. We examined whether food items consumed were related to turtle body size and if there was feeding niche overlap among species. Podocnemis sextuberculata consumed the least amount of food by volume, while P. expansa consumed the highest diversity of food items. All four species are primarily herbivorous, and their diets were composed mainly of fruits and seeds (85.4% mean proportion by volume). Genipa americana (Rubiaceae) was most important in the diet of all species, except in P. sextuberculata. We found some evidence of seasonal differences in the consumption of some plant species. Body size did not influence qualitative (diversity of food items eaten) or quantitative variation of food items (volume), except in P. erythrocephala for which we detected a significant linear relationship between carapace length and the volume of stomach contents. The highest food niche overlap was between P. expansa and P. unifilis, and the lowest niche overlap was between P. erythrocephala and P. sextuberculata. Turtles tended to partition food resources more in areas that had more species feeding in syntopy than in areas with fewer syntopic species.

© 2020 by the American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists
Fernando L. R. Cunha, Rafael Bernhard, and Richard C. Vogt "Diet of an Assemblage of Four Species of Turtles (Podocnemis) in the Rio Uatumã, Amazonas, Brazil," Copeia 108(1), 103-115, (3 March 2020).
Received: 6 September 2018; Accepted: 17 December 2019; Published: 3 March 2020
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