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Mar Environ Res. 2010 May;69(4):254-61. doi: 10.1016/j.marenvres.2009.11.004. Epub 2009 Nov 14.

Effect of tidal overwash on the embryonic development of leatherback turtles in French Guiana.

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DoƱana Biological Station, 41013 Seville, Spain.


In marine turtles, the physical conditions experienced by eggs during incubation affect embryonic development. In the leatherback, hatching success is known to be low in relation to other marine turtles as a result of high embryonic mortality. Moreover, the hatching success on Yalimapo in French Guiana, one major nesting beach for this species, is lower compared to other nesting sites. We assessed the rate of leatherback turtle embryonic mortality in order to investigate the tolerance of leatherback turtle clutches laid on Yalimapo beach to tidal overwash, and we highlight causes of poor hatching success. Of the 89 nests studied, 27 were overlapped by tide at least once during the incubation period (of which five nests were lost by erosion). The hatching success was on average significantly lower in overwashed nests than in non-overwashed, highlighting the existence of embryonic developmental arrest linked to tidal inundation. The stages of developmental arrest and their proportion are linked with time, frequency and level of overwash events. In the context of global warming and associated sea-level rise, understanding the detrimental effect of tidal inundation on the development of marine turtle nests is of interest in nesting sites where turtles are likely to be forced to nest closer to the tide line, thus exposing their nests to greater risk of nest overlap with sea and tidal inundation.

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