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17 May 2022 Compensating for Small Body Size: The Reproductive Ecology of Southern Spotted Turtle (Clemmys guttata) Populations
Houston C. Chandler, Benjamin S. Stegenga, Jonathan D. Mays
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Gradients in environmental conditions across a species' geographic distribution can drive variability in a variety of life history traits. In North American freshwater turtles, both body and clutch size have commonly been shown to vary latitudinally, and these two traits are often directly related, with larger individuals producing larger clutches. We studied the reproductive ecology in two Georgia populations of Spotted Turtles (Clemmys guttata) from 2016–2020 by attaching radio transmitters to female turtles during the breeding season. We x-rayed turtles to determine clutch sizes and used thread bobbins to locate nesting locations, allowing us to determine nest fates. Across all Spotted Turtle clutches (n = 41), mean clutch size was 2.1 (range: 1–4) eggs per clutch. Approximately 92% of individuals that we monitored produced at least one clutch during the breeding season, and we identified 16 instances of individuals producing more than one clutch in a single year, including six turtles triple clutching during 2018. We located 24 Spotted Turtle nests during the study, nine (37.5%) of which either hatched or partially hatched. The other nests were either depredated (41.7%), did not hatch due to infertility or environmental reasons (8.3%), or had an undetermined fate (12.5%). Our results indicate that annual reproductive output in southern Spotted Turtle populations can exceed that of northern populations where individuals produce a single larger clutch per reproductive season. Finally, opportunistic observations in Florida from 2014–2021 indicated that the reproductive season can begin over a month earlier than in southern Georgia, highlighting the variability in reproductive ecology even across a relatively short latitudinal distance.

© 2022 by the American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists
Houston C. Chandler, Benjamin S. Stegenga, and Jonathan D. Mays "Compensating for Small Body Size: The Reproductive Ecology of Southern Spotted Turtle (Clemmys guttata) Populations," Ichthyology & Herpetology 110(2), 268-277, (17 May 2022).
Received: 30 June 2021; Accepted: 23 October 2021; Published: 17 May 2022
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