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Biol Lett. 2007 Dec 22;3(6):712-4.

The 'lost years' of green turtles: using stable isotopes to study cryptic lifestages.

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Archie Carr Center for Sea Turtle Research, Department of Zoology, PO Box 118525, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611, USA.


Ignorance of the location or inaccessible locations of lifestages can impede the study and management of species. We used stable isotopes of carbon and nitrogen to identify the habitats and diets and to estimate the duration of a 'missing' lifestage: the early juvenile stage of the green turtle, Chelonia mydas. Stable isotopes in scute from young herbivorous green turtles in shallow-water habitats revealed that they spend 3-5 years as carnivores in oceanic habitats before making a rapid ontogenetic shift in diet and habitat. Stable isotopes in persistent and continuously growing tissues, such as some fish scales, bird bills and claws and mammal hair and claws, can be used to evaluate the ecology of inaccessible lifestages.

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