J. M. Whittier

University of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

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Publications (48)65.57 Total impact

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    Advances in Zoology. 08/2014; 2014:1-9.
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    ABSTRACT: A variety of trace metals were measured in the egg contents of three clutches of Chelonia mydas collected from Kuala Terengganu state in Peninsular Malaysia. We quantified Mn, Cu, Zn, Se (essential trace metals) and As (anthropogenic pollutant) at several developmental stages obtained by incubating eggs at two different temperatures (27°C and 31°C). The incubation temperatures were chosen because they produce predominantly male or predominantly female hatchlings, respectively. The eggs were removed from the sand and washed before being placed in incubators, to ensure that the only possible source of the detected metals was maternal transfer. Other metals: Mo, Co, Ni, Cd, Sn, Sb, Hg, Tl and Pb (all non-essential metals) were detected at concentrations below the lower limit of quantitation (LLOQ). Trace metal concentrations, particularly [Zn], increased during development, other metals (Cu, As, Se and Cr) accumulated to a lesser degree than zinc but no significant differences were observed between the incubation temperatures at any stage of incubation. To date, only a few studies on trace metals in turtle embryos and hatchlings have been reported; this study will provide basic knowledge on the accumulation of trace metals during development at two different incubation temperatures.
    Science of The Total Environment 03/2013; 450-451C:301-306. · 3.26 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Hatcheries are commonly used to protect sea turtle eggs from poaching and predation; however, there is currently limited scientific evidence to support good hatchery management practices, particularly post-hatching. This study investigated the effects of retaining hatchlings in hatcheries after emergence and delaying nest excavations on the quality of green turtle Chelonia mydas hatchlings. In addition, the effect of artificial lighting on the sea-finding ability of green turtles was investigated to highlight the importance of hatchling release locations on hatchery beaches. Hatchling running speed, an indicator of vigour and predation exposure, progressively decreased when hatchlings were retained in the hatchery for 1, 3 and 6 hours following emergence. Similarly, body condition (mass : straight carapace length), an indicator of dehydration and/or energy consumption, decreased after being retained for 3 and 6 hours. It was estimated that hatchlings retained for 6 hours after emergence would become significantly dehydrated and double their exposure to beach slope predation. Residual hatchlings that were immediately excavated from emerged nests had similar running speed and body condition to naturally emerged siblings. However, residual hatchlings removed from nests 5 days later had significantly reduced running speed and body condition, resulting in estimates of double the exposure to predation in near-shore areas. The mean angle of hatchling dispersal varied at different sites along the Ma’Daerah beach in relation to proximity to artificial lighting. Important recommendations for post-hatching management of sea turtle hatcheries worldwide can be made from the results of this study. To maximize release of hatchlings in the best condition as is possible, hatchlings should be released immediately after emergence, including excavation of any residual hatchlings. In addition, the dispersal angles of hatchlings should be tested at each hatchery beach to determine suitable release sites for efficient dispersal.
    Animal Conservation 01/2013; 16:316-323. · 2.69 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The histological characteristics of the gonads and paramesonephric ducts were investigated to allow a quantitative distinction among male, female, and intersex hatchling Green Sea Turtles (Chelonia mydas) from peninsular Malaysia. Hatchling sexes were identified initially as either males or females based on the incubation temperatures, and intersex hatchlings were collected from in situ nests. Traditionally, this assignment is confirmed by qualitative visual assessment of histological sections of the gonads and paramesonephric ducts. We describe a quantitative method for measuring these parameters to distinguish hatchling sex. The thickness of the paramesonephric duct epithelium area, the height of the nucleus in cells within the gonadal cortical epithelium, and the width of the gonadal ridge were measured in sections from 116 hatchlings. Upon examination of the histological material, hatchlings identified initially by incubation temperature as females were found to have significantly thicker paramesonephric duct epithelium and greater gonadal ridge width and cortical epithelium nuclear height compared with hatchlings identified as males. In addition, some hatchlings demonstrated histological characteristics of both sexes (designated here as intersex hatchlings) in some or all of the traditional histological sexing criteria. The "intersex" group could be divided into two subgroups by the quantitative measurements described here. Using this method, hatchlings could be classified as either males, females, or intersexes with a male-appearing gonad and female-appearing duct or a female-appearing gonad and male-appearing duct. The method outlined here provides a quantitative way to distinguish sex and provides insight in intersex grouping in hatchling C. mydas.
    Journal of Herpetology 01/2012; 46(3):331-337. · 0.89 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The use of off-road vehicles (ORVs) on sandy beaches creates ruts in the sand that may interfere with the beach dispersal of sea turtle hatchlings. The present study investigated the influence of simulated ORV ruts of 3 depths (5, 10 and 15 cm) on the success and speed of green sea turtle Chelonia mydas hatchling dispersal. Almost all hatchlings (91%) were unable to traverse a single 15 cm rut, indicating that ruts of this depth are particularly detrimental to hatchling dispersal. Hatchlings had greater success traversing the 5 and 10 cm ruts, although they spent 2.6 and 18.6 times longer to get through a single rut, respectively (compared to the flat sand control path). It took progressively longer to get through subsequent ruts, and 99 and 53% of the hatchlings crawled along the 10 and 5 cm ruts, respectively, instead of attempting to crawl out of them. It was estimated that if hatchlings had to traverse 100 ORV ruts during dispersal, it would take 1.9 and 25.1 h for 5 and 10 cm deep ruts, respectively. The results from the present study indicate that green sea turtle hatchlings would spend considerable time navigating through ORV ruts, even as shallow as 5 cm, resulting in increased exposure to predation, dehydration and energy expenditure during this initial stage of dispersal.
    Endangered Species Research 01/2012; 18:27-34. · 2.26 Impact Factor
  • K. Coufal, C. Limpus, J. M. Whittier
    01/2011;
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    T. Jessop, J. M. Whittier
    01/2011;
  • M. Hamann, T. Jessop, M. Forest, C. Limpus, J. M. Whittier
    01/2011;
  • T. Jessop, C. Limpus, J. M. Whittier
    01/2011;
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    ABSTRACT: The blood and eggs of the flatback turtle (Natator depressus) sampled when nesting at Curtis Island, Queensland, Australia. In the blood, zinc was present at the highest concentration of 151.15 ± 1.45 μg/L followed by copper (7.74 ± 0.09 μg/L). Lead was found only in some individuals. The measured trace elements in the blood were maternally transferred into the eggs. Other metals and metalloids detected in eggs were chromium, manganese, arsenic and selenium. Eggs showed a more complex trace element profile than blood, suggesting that they provided more representative tissues for determining maternal levels of trace element accumulation in N. depressus. Intra-clutch variation was over 15% for most of the studied trace elements suggesting one egg is not in sufficient to determine trace element accumulation within a clutch. Copper was the only element which was positively correlated with breeding age. Furthermore, no detectable levels of tin compound derivates were measured in N. depressus.
    Marine environmental research 09/2010; 71(1):10-6. · 2.34 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Persistent organic pollutants (POPs) and heavy metals have been reported in a number of green turtle (Chelonia mydas) populations worldwide. However, due to ethical considerations, these studies have generally been on tissues from deceased and stranded animals. The purpose of this study was to investigate the use of blood samples to estimate the tissue contamination of live C. mydas populations. This study analysed 125 POP compounds and eight heavy metals in the blood, liver, kidney and muscle of 16 C. mydas from the Sea World Sea Turtle Rehabilitation Program, Gold Coast, Australia. Strong correlations were observed between blood and tissue concentrations for a number of POPs and metals. Furthermore, these correlations were observed over large ranges of turtle size, sex and condition. These results indicate that blood samples are a reliable non-lethal method for predicting chemical contamination in C. mydas.
    Marine pollution bulletin 12/2009; 60(4):579-88. · 2.63 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Context. Many green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas) populations are declining worldwide owing to their susceptibility to human impacts in the marine environment. Identifying the habitats used throughout different lifecycle stages is therefore important for managing the interactions between turtles and humans. Aims. To identify the habitat utilisation of a C. mydas nesting population in Peninsular Malaysia during breeding, inter-nesting, migration and foraging lifecycle stages. Methods. Satellite telemetry was used to track the movement of three C. mydas nesting females and one adult male from the Ma'Daerah rookery (Peninsular Malaysia). Key results. The male and female turtles remained within 30 km of the nesting beach during the breeding and inter-nesting periods, which includes habitat beyond the 'no trawl zone' designed to protect turtles in this area. Following the breeding season, the tracked turtles migrated up to 1955 km to four different foraging grounds in Vietnam, Indonesia, Peninsular Malaysia and Borneo Malaysia. During foraging, turtles occupied areas threatened by human activities such as fishing and pollution. Conclusions. The habitats used by the Ma'Daerah C. mydas population during breeding are outside current local protection zones and extend into unprotected international waters during migration and foraging. Implications. Identification of habitats used by C. mydas populations is a critical element of management and conservation of this endangered, migratory species. Our study highlights the need to increase offshore protection around Ma'Daerah during the nesting season. Furthermore, this study has identified the countries within South-east Asia that Malaysia must cooperate with to ensure effective management of this C. mydas population. This information is particularly relevant to sea turtle conservation and management in regions like South-east Asia, where many coastal countries occupy a small geographical area.
    11/2009;
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    ABSTRACT: Persistent organic pollutants (POPs)-such as organochlorine pesticides (OCPs), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs)-and heavy metals have been reported in sea turtles at various stages of their life cycle. These chemicals can disrupt development and function of wildlife. Furthermore, in areas such as Peninsular Malaysia, where the human consumption of sea turtle eggs is prevalent, egg contamination may also have public health implications. In the present study we investigated conservation and human health risks associated with the chemical contamination of green turtle (Chelonia mydas) eggs in Peninsular Malaysia. Fifty-five C. mydas eggs were collected from markets in Peninsular Malaysia and analyzed for POPs and heavy metals. We conducted screening risk assessments (SRAs) and calculated the percent of acceptable daily intake (ADI) for POPs and metals to assess conservation and human health risks associated with egg contamination. C. mydas eggs were available in 9 of the 33 markets visited. These eggs came from seven nesting areas from as far away as Borneo Malaysia. SRAs indicated a significant risk to embryonic development associated with the observed arsenic concentrations. Furthermore, the concentrations of coplanar PCBs represented 3 300 times the ADI values set by the World Health Organization. The concentrations of POPs and heavy metals reported in C. mydas eggs from markets in Peninsular Malaysia pose considerable risks to sea turtle conservation and human health.
    Environmental Health Perspectives 09/2009; 117(9):1397-401. · 7.26 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Investigation into persistent organic pollutants (POPs) in sea turtles is an important area of conservation research due to the harmful effects of these chemicals. However, the analysis of POPs in the green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas) has been limited by methods with relatively high limits of detection and high costs associated with multiple sample injections into complex arrangements of analytical equipment. The present study aimed to develop a method that could detect a large number of POPs in the blood, eggs and tissue of C. mydas at trace concentrations. A gas chromatography with tandem mass spectrometry (GC-MS/MS) method was developed that could report 125 POP compounds to a limit of detection of <35 pg g(-1) using a single sample injection. The recoveries of internal standards ranged from 30% to 96%, and the standard reference materials were reported to within 70% of the certified values. The coefficient of variation of ten replicates of pooled egg sample was <20% for all compounds, indicating low within-run variation. This GC-MS/MS method is an improvement of previous methods for analysing POPs in C. mydas in that more compounds can be reported at lower concentrations and the accuracy and precision of the method are sound. This is particularly important for C. mydas as they occupy a low trophic level and have lower concentrations of POPs. This method is also simple to set up, and there are minimal differences in sample preparation for the different tissue types.
    Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry 01/2009; 393(6-7):1719-31. · 3.66 Impact Factor
  • K. E. Arthur, C J Limpus, J. M. Whittier
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    ABSTRACT: Quantifying health in wild marine turtles is challenging because reptiles have characteristically wide-ranging normal reference values for many indicators of health and because of the shortage of population-specific baseline data for wild animals. We measured blood biochemistry profiles (calcium, magnesium, sodium, lactate dehydrogenase (LDH), urea, cholesterol, triglycerides, and glucose) of green turtles (Chelonia mydas) in Moreton and Shoalwater Bays, Australia, and compared them in relation to capture site, age, sex and exposure to harmful algal blooms of the toxic cyanobacteria Lyngbya majuscula. Turtles were considered to be clinically healthy when no external injuries or lesions were observed and there was no evidence of disease or emaciation. Differences in blood profiles were detected between sites, but not between age groups or sexes. Turtles that were exposed to L. majuscula generally had lower plasma glucose concentrations and decreased LDH activity, which may represent a metabolic downregulation resulting from food limitation. This study provides the first blood biochemistry reference values for green turtles in Queensland, Australia, that can be used in future assessments of green turtles in these foraging habitats.
    01/2008;
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    Proceedings of the Twenty-Seventh Annual Symposium on Sea Turtle Biology and Conservation, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, USA; 02/2007
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    ABSTRACT: We report for the first time the presence of a sex steroid-binding protein in the plasma of green sea turtles Chelonia mydas, which provides an insight into reproductive status. A high affinity, low capacity sex hormone steroid-binding protein was identified in nesting C. mydas and its thermal profile was established. In nesting C. mydas testosterone and oestradiol bind at 4 degrees C with high affinity (K (a) = 1.49 +/- 0.09 x 10(9) M(-1); 0.17 +/- 0.02 x 10(7) M(-1)) and low binding capacity (B (max) = 3.24 +/- 0.84 x 10(-5) M; 0.33 +/- 0.06 x 10(-4) M). The binding affinity and capacity of testosterone at 23 and 36 degrees C, respectively were similar to those determined at 4 degrees C. However, oestradiol showed no binding activity at 36 degrees C. With competition studies we showed that oestradiol and oestrone do not compete for binding sites. Furthermore, in nesting C. mydas plasma no high-affinity binding was observed for adrenocortical steroids (cortisol and corticosterone) and progesterone. Our results indicate that in nesting C. mydas plasma temperature has a minimal effect on the high-affinity binding of testosterone to sex steroid-binding protein, however, the high affinity binding of oestradiol to sex steroid-binding protein is abolished at a hypothetically high (36 degrees C) sea/ambient/body temperature. This suggests that at high core body temperatures most of the oestradiol becomes biologically available to the tissues rather than remaining bound to a high-affinity carrier.
    Journal of Comparative Physiology B 12/2006; 176(8):775-82. · 2.02 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: This study investigated the effects of hatchery shading, nest depth, and metabolic heating on the temperature of Chelonia mydas clutches incubated in hatcheries at Ma'Daerah, Terengganu, Malaysia. Metabolic heating was found to be the most influential factor on nest temperature; the number of completely developed eggs explained nearly half of the variation in mean nest temperature. The degree of hatchery shading (70% vs. 100%) and nest depth (50 vs. 75 cm) had little influence on nest temperatures, with mean nest temperatures between 28° and 28.6°C in the first third of incubation (before metabolic heating of the clutch began to have an effect). Nests at a depth of 75 cm had significantly lower daily temperature ranges than nests at a depth of 50 cm, but a maximum mean daily range of 0.5°C (50 cm depth in 70% shade hatchery) resulted in calculated constant temperature equivalents (CTE) being identical to observed mean nest temperatures. The results of this study indicate that, under current climatic conditions in this area, shading between 70% and 100% and nest depths between 50 and 75 cm will incubate green turtle clutches within the optimal temperature range for development. However, this information is site-specific and could vary significantly between locations due to the complex interaction of biological, chemical, and physical factors that influence sea turtle nest temperature. Yes Yes
    01/2006;
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    J van de Merwe, K Ibrahim, J Whittier
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    ABSTRACT: One of the decisions made by hatchery managers around the world is what degree of shading and nest depth are required to maximise the production of high-quality hatchlings at optimal sex ratios. The primary objectives of this study were to determine the effects of (1) hatchery shading and nest depth on nest temperatures and emergence lag, and (2) nest temperatures and nest depth on hatchling sex ratio and quality. In 2001, 26 Chelonia mydas clutches from Ma'Daerah beach, Terengganu, Malaysia, were relocated alternatively at depths of 50 cm and 75 cm into a 70%-shaded and a 100%-shaded hatchery. Data loggers were placed into the centre of each relocated clutch to record the temperature every hour over the course of incubation. When the hatchlings emerged, a sample of the clutch was run, measured and weighed and a separate sample was examined histologically for sex characteristics. Nest temperatures ranged between 28 degrees C and 30 degrees C and generally showed increases over the second half of incubation due to metabolic heating of the clutch. There was no significant correlation found between nest temperature and any of the hatchling parameters measured. Hatchlings from 75-cm-deep nests had a longer emergence lag (46.4 (+/- 10.2) h) than hatchlings from 50-cm-deep nests. Hatch and emergence success were similar to those of natural populations and hatchling sex ratios were male dominant, with an average of 72% males. There was a poor correlation between mean middle-third incubation temperatures and sex ratio. Hatchlings from 75-cm-deep nests had similar running speeds but lower condition index than their conspecifics from 50-cm-deep nests.
    01/2005;
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    ABSTRACT: Introduced species are an increasingly pervasive problem. While studies on the ecology and behavior of these pests are numerous, there is relatively little known of their physiology, specifically their reproductive and stress physiology. One of the best documented introduced pest species is the brown tree snake, Boiga irregularis, which was introduced onto the Pacific island of Guam sometime around World War II. The snake is responsible for severely reducing Guam's native vertebrates. We captured free-living individuals throughout the year and measured plasma levels of stress and sex hormones in an effort to determine when they were breeding. These data were compared to reproductive cycles from a captive population originally collected from Guam. Free-living individuals had chronically elevated plasma levels of the stress hormone corticosterone and basal levels of sex steroids and a remarkably low proportion were reproductively active. These data coincide with evidence that the wild population may be in decline. Captive snakes, had low plasma levels of corticosterone with males displaying a peak in plasma testosterone levels during breeding. Furthermore, we compared body condition between the free-living and captive snakes from Guam and free-living individuals captured from their native range in Australia. Male and female free-living snakes from Guam exhibited significantly reduced body condition compared to free-living individuals from Australia. We suggest that during the study period, free-living brown tree snakes on Guam were living under stressful conditions, possibly due to overcrowding and overexploitation. of food resources, resulting in decreased body condition and suppressed reproduction. (C) 2004 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
    01/2005;

Publication Stats

373 Citations
65.57 Total Impact Points

Institutions

  • 1997–2014
    • University of Queensland
      • • School of Biomedical Sciences
      • • School of Biological Sciences
      Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
  • 2004
    • San Diego Zoo
      San Diego, California, United States
  • 2000
    • University of Otago
      • Department of Zoology
      Dunedin, Otago, New Zealand