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Spatial Ecology of the Striped Mud Turtle, Kinosternon baurii, in a Restored Florida Wetland


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Despite their wide distribution, Striped Mud Turtles have not been studied in restored habitats and do not have radiotelemetry-based home range data available. Therefore, we initiated a study in central Florida to fill knowledge gaps on the spatial ecology of K. baurii in a restored environment. The study contributes to an improved understanding about how K. baurii move in a reestablished area and provides insight for future management plans.
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Herpetological Review 50(4), 2019
Herpetological Review, 2019, 50(4), 695–698.
© 2019 by Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles
Spatial Ecology of the Striped Mud Turtle,
Kinosternon baurii, in a Restored Florida Wetland
For many turtle species, adequate background data to formulate
useful conservation, restoration, and management plans are
lacking (Ernst et al. 1994; Ernst and Lovich 2009). The knowledge
gap should be filled for understudied turtles, primarily because
recent unforeseen population declines suggest that predicting
population decline is difficult, even for relatively well-studied
turtles (Gibbons et al. 2000; Christiansen et al. 2012; Lovich et al.
2018). Information on how organisms use space is an essential
part of understanding their ecology (Gibbons 1970; Gregory et al.
2001; Slavenko et al. 2016). Movement data can provide insight
into the actual space needed to support species by displaying
where individuals use their time (Gibbons 1970; Wygoda
1979; Harden et al. 2009). This information can be valuable to
land managers and conservation biologists when planning
restoration and conservation projects or providing insight into
turtle declines (Harden et al. 2009; Dudley et al. 2015; Marchand
and Litvaitis 2004).
The Striped Mud Turtle, Kinosternon baurii, is a small
understudied semi-aquatic turtle that resides along the Atlantic
and Gulf Coastal Plains of the eastern United States from Virginia
to the Florida Keys (Ernst et al. 1994; Wilson et al. 2006). The
studies on K. baurii in Florida have been conducted in west-
central Florida (Wygoda 1979; Mushinsky and Wilson 1992;
Wilson et al. 1999), south Florida (Ernst et al. 1972; Meshaka and
Blind 2001), and the Florida Keys (Dunson 1981), but no previous
studies have taken place in central Florida.
Wygoda (1979) used thread bobbins to study K. baurii
movement and found they spend a significant amount of time on
land when aquatic areas desiccate. He concluded that terrestrial
movement of K. baurii was bimodal and correlated with water
depth, precipitation, and temperature. No studies have utilized
radiotracking to examine the movement of this mud turtle
The major threat to Kinosternon in Florida is the loss of
suitable habitat because they require wetlands surrounded
by uplands they use for nesting (Wilson et al. 2006; Cordero
et al. 2012). Hence, they are an ideal species to demonstrate
how conserving wetlands, but not the land around them, is
insufficient for some species (Buhlmann and Gibbons 2001;
Bowne et al. 2006). These habitat requirements are also observed
in Kinosternon subrubrum and Kinosternon integrum (Harden et
al. 2009; Cordero et al. 2012; Pérez–Pérez et al. 2017).
Despite their wide distribution, Striped Mud Turtles
have not been studied in restored habitats and do not have
radiotelemetry-based home range data available. Therefore, we
initiated a study in central Florida to fill knowledge gaps on the
spatial ecology of K. baurii in a restored environment. The study
contributes to an improved understanding about how K. baurii
move in a reestablished area and provides insight for future
management plans.
MaTerials and MeThods
Study site.—Our study area was Circle B Bar Reserve (CBR),
a restored former cattle ranch adjacent to Lake Hancock in Polk
County, Florida, USA. The reserve consists of 512.7 ha of land,
which includes permanent marsh, semi-permanent wetlands,
and upland habitat (Fig. 1). The wetland habitat where we
captured most turtles (all except one) is a canal, Alligator Alley,
that runs parallel to Lake Hancock approximately 2 km away
from upland habitat. On the other side of the canal is a semi-
permanent wetland. Areas of the marsh and wetlands dried up
during the dry season (October–May), but frequently flooded
during June–September. From October 2016 to June 2017 there
was a drought in the area and a majority of the wetlands and
canals that are ordinarily permanent dried up.
Radiotelemetry.—We tagged nine turtles with ATS
radiotelemetry tags (3.5 g) starting in Sept 2016. We caught
turtles using box-style minnow traps, dimensions 39 x 36 x 29
cm, with metal mesh that was 1 x l cm (similar to Karl and Wilson
2001). Most turtles caught were female, so we actively searched
for males to tag. The tag’s mass did not exceed 5 % of the turtle’s
body mass because we affixed transmitters only to turtles > 70
g, as measured with a Pesola scale. We attached the tags with
marine epoxy (Loctite® Marine 2-hour Epoxy, Henkel Corp.,
Westlake, Ohio, USA) to costal scutes, on the anterior portion
of the turtle on the right side of the carapace, with the antenna
facing backwards and up. To minimize stress for the turtle, we
Department of Biology, Florida Southern College,
111 Lake Hollingsworth Drive, Lakeland, Florida 33801, USA
e-mail: glangford@
*Corresponding author
Fig. 1. Map of Circle B Bar Reserve and its location within Florida.
The habitats where the turtles were caught are highlighted in green
and marked with green stars. Alligator Alley is the location where 8 of
the 9 turtles were caught.
Herpetological Review 50(4), 2019
contained them for < 3 days during the tagging process. We affixed
nine turtles with transmitters, seven females and two males,
with one turtle having the first tag replaced when the transmitter
battery malfunctioned, for a total of 10 transmitters. We located
the nine turtles one to three times every week (less during winter
months) and took a GPS point. When visual confirmation of a
turtle’s location was not feasible, we triangulated a bearing and
approximated the location. We estimated location by using the
geofunction library of Microsoft Excel and the NewPostLat/
NewPostLong equation. We continued tracking until the end
of the battery life, approximately 260 days, or until we could
not obtain the signal. If the signal vanished, we searched for
it in numerous locations at least once every three weeks until
the end of the study. We entered the GPS points into ArcGIS
Explorer version 10.1 (ESRI 2012) to view the movements and
home ranges of each turtle. To estimate home range, we used the
polygon and then area feature of ArcGIS. This involved including
all the outermost GPS points as the edge of the home range and
then recording the area of the formed polygon.
Statistical analysis.—We took the area of each home range
and obtained the means and standard deviation (SD) for all
turtles and by sex. We measured straight-line distance (SLD) to
show the greatest distance between two GPS locations within
the home range and calculated the mean and SD of the SLD. We
performed a Mann-Whitney U-test to compare male and female
home range sizes. We used MiniTab -18 and Microsoft Excel for
statistical analyses (α = 0.05).
Home ranges.—We tracked turtles between 66 and 369 days
(mean̅ = 174 ± 97.9; N = 9; Table 1). Home range polygons are
shown in Figs. 2 and 3. A male turtle had the largest home range
(14,396 m2) and SLD (281 m; Table 1). The other male turtle had
the smallest home range, 1111.2 m2. The second largest home
range was a female who was gravid during the last segment
of the tracking period (9200 m2). The mean SLD for the turtles
was 169.3 m and went through mostly shallow, lentic wetlands
and canals, with the occasional trail or road. We confirmed two
females to be gravid during their tracking period (frequencies
209 and 131; Table 1). Females had a mean home range of 5079.0
m2 ± 2274.0 (N = 7) and males had a mean home range of 7753.4
m2 ± 9393 (N = 2). The mean home range difference between the
sexes was not statistically significant (P = 0.76; N = 9).
Movement patterns.—During a drought in 2017, three
tracked turtles were together in a very shallow pool of water,
which was once the canal, for a few days. One turtle retreated
to the nearby lake, which had abundant water, when its normal
pool dried. After tracking her twice in the lake, her signal was lost
and not located after extensive searching. A male estivated when
the water in his home range disappeared. Nesting activities
continued during the drought, as a gravid female was found
while crossing a road. She became sedentary after laying her
eggs near the roadway. Unfortunately, we lost her signal soon
after her nesting event.
Our study is the first to investigate K. baurii movement with
radiotelemetry and provides the first accurate home ranges for
Striped Mud Turtles. Overall, the mud turtles in our study moved
a considerable amount and their home range sizes fell near the
middle of the variability found for other species of Kinosternidae
(Harden et al. 2009; Cordero et al. 2012; Pérez–Pérez et al. 2017).
The lowest reported mean home range found in Kinosternidae
was 80 m2 for Sternotherus depressus and the upper extreme was
657,000 m2 for Sternotherus odoratus (Dodd et al. 1988; Bennett et
al. 2015). In comparison to other freshwater turtles, kinosternids
have relatively small home ranges (Slavenko et al. 2016).
Table 1. Frequency, sex, home range, straight-line distance, days radio tracked, and number of relocation
Turtle Sex Home range Straight-line Number of Total relocation
frequency area (m2) distance (m) days tracked points
209 F 9200 247 369 66
171, 151 F 5791 154 245 50
310 M 1111 170 230 31
131 F 5184 175 120 16
110 M 14,396 283 152 31
250 F 3146 88 203 31
228 F 2083 123 110 18
290 F 4435 218 66 11
191 F 5716 67 72 16
Fig. 2. Home range polygons of the two male turtles, frequencies 310
and 110, mapped together to show overlap.
Herpetological Review 50(4), 2019
Home ranges.—On average, female home ranges were smaller
than male home ranges, but the difference was not statistically
significant, which could have been impacted by the small
sample size (N = 9). Sex-specific differences in home range are
seen in K. subrubrum, so this difference might be observed with
a larger sample size of K. baurii (Cordero et al. 2012). Although
we only confirmed two gravid females, both appeared to move
outside their standard home range to nest, which is consistent
with reports that nesting forays can expand a turtle’s home range
(Stickel 1989; Cook 2004). A male had the largest home range,
but the second largest was a gravid female. Interestingly, the two
male home ranges barely overlapped, while many female ranges
overlapped extensively (Figs. 2 and 3). Male K. baurii can be
aggressive to each other, as observed in the field by Carr (1952)
and Lardie (1975) as well as in captivity (Wygoda 1979). Females
may be able to tolerate overlap in ranges, whereas males may
be pushed out of established territories of other males. Wygoda
(1979) also questioned whether males are territorial or have
dominance hierarchies, but further investigation is needed to
determine if male avoidance is commonplace and caused by
underlying male behavior.
Movement patterns.—The mean SLD for the turtles in this
study was 169.3 m, which was slightly larger than what is observed
in Eastern Mud Turtles in suburban environments (mean = 119.2
m; Harden et al. 2009). However, this SLD is considerably smaller
than what Cordero et al. (2012) found for K. subrubrum in the mid-
Atlantic region of the United States (mean maximum distance
traveled 903 and 887 m). Additionally, these movements are more
substantial than represented in K. integrum (mean distance =
51.44 m; Pérez–Pérez et al. 2017). The variability of the movement
in the three species that have similar habitat requirements is
peculiar. However, Wilson et al. (1999) found that the average
movement for K. baurii from wetland to nest site was 137 m,
which was comparable to our overall SLD found during tracking.
Through the drought in 2017, tracked turtles exhibited
interesting behaviors. As we tracked one females signal, it was
lost when she moved from the shallow wetland to the adjacent
lake. After her movement into Lake Hancock, we lost her signal,
which may indicate that she travelled a substantial distance to
establish a new home range (we made extensive efforts to locate
her). Alternatively, she may have been depredated. During
the drought, a male turtle (frequency 310) estivated when his
wetland in his home range dried, which suggests turtles in this
population respond differently to drying ponds, i.e., estivation
vs. relocation. Given his extended period of inactivity, it seems
estivation likely contributed to his relatively small home range.
Wygoda (1979) found that many K. baurii in west-central Florida
estivated, whereas Ernst et al. (1972) found that in southern
Florida they did not estivate because the water was permanent.
The apparent variation in estivation behavior is interesting
but perhaps attributed to the morphometric evidence found
by Iverson (1978) indicating a cline in mud turtle aquatic
specialization throughout varying geography within Florida.
However, our study supports the findings by Wygoda (1979) that
K. baurii have seasonal shifts in movement that are related to
water depth, precipitation, and temperature.
One gravid female’s signal was lost 66 days after she was
tagged. Just before her signal was lost, she was buried while
resting after depositing her eggs, similar to what was seen by
Wilson et al. (1999). It is not known whether she disappeared
due to depredation, tag malfunction, or a long foray. However,
increased vulnerability of nesting females has been observed in
other turtle species and conservation planning should assess this
threat to increase survival rates (Aresco 2005; Iglay et al. 2007).
When tracked turtle 209 was gravid, she stayed near the
sandy levee trail, presumably to nest, during fall 2018, behavior
which also has been observed in K. subrubrum (Cordero et
al. 2012). The trail is the primary elevated area apart from the
upland habitat (approximately two km) from the study site; thus,
given the distance to the natural upland habitat, the levee trail is
the only confirmed nesting area and is presumed to be the main
nesting area for these turtles. It seems possible that the man-
made levee serves as an ecological trap for these turtles (see
Aresco 2005), as egg predators seem to be drawn to the trail by
human activity. Because current nesting habitat is limited and
might reduce egg and hatchling survival, managers of restored
areas may consider constructing additional nesting habitat
closer to the mud turtle home ranges to bolster recruitment
(Reid et al. 2016). If anthropogenically altered areas are to be
managed for both people and fauna, such as these levee trails,
land managers should reflect upon the behavioral patterns and
spatial ecology of wildlife (Bowne et al. 2006; Harden et al. 2009).
Our data show many home ranges encompassing large
portions of land, reinforcing the evidence that K. baurii is a
highly terrestrial species. Setting aside or restoring uplands that
are close to wetlands would benefit numerous species and would
help to conserve wildlife that depend on land and water within
fragmented and disturbed habitats (Williams and Dodd 1978;
Bowne et al. 2006; Harden et al. 2009; Reid et al. 2016). We suggest
future studies on K. baurii nesting and terrestrial movement,
especially in restored areas, to provide a more comprehensive
picture of what they require (see Slavenko et al. 2016).
In increasingly human-dominated landscapes, which are
progressively more common in Florida, restored habitats and
reserves will serve as critical habitat for turtles and other wildlife.
As even “wild” habitats in Florida become gradually more
disturbed, knowledge of mud turtle movement, as well as how
they respond to perturbed habitats, will be key to establishing
comprehensive management plans.
Acknowledgments.The support of the Circle B Bar Reserve
staff, especially Tabitha Biehl, as well as volunteer Allen Ayris and
the Florida Southern College Department of Biology and Honors
Program, allowed this project to happen. Thanks to Bryanna Wargat
and Joshua Lew for help with fieldwork. This research was approved
by Florida Southern College Institutional Animal Care and Use Com-
mittee protocol #1020 and capturing was done under a Polk County
Environmental Lands Special Use Permit for 2016 and 2017.
Fig. 3. Home range polygons of the seven female turtles, mapped to-
gether to show overlap.
Herpetological Review 50(4), 2019
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... It is possible, because of low amounts of suitable nesting habitat, that CBR is not able to support larger populations of small turtles. Larger turtles, however, often have a greater ability to move further (with less risk of being eaten or desiccating), so they probably have a higher nesting success rate at the reserve than small-bodied Striped Mud Turtles (Eubanks et al. 2003, Murphy et al. 2016, Steen et al. 2012, Stemle et al. 2019). Alternatively, surveys should be conducted to see if the wetlands within the numerous sandhills of central Florida, in general, support smaller populations when compared to low-elevation sites along coastal central Florida. ...
... During our observations, we noted that ideal nesting habitat is sparse near our main study site, which may cause low recruitment. Although possible, it does not appear mud turtles were moving the 2 km to the other upland habitat to nest (Stemle et al. 2019); the levee trail is the only confirmed nesting area and appears to be the main nesting area for these turtles. The levee could serve as an ecological trap for these turtles (see Aresco 2005) because egg predators, such as Raccoons, seem to be drawn to the trail by human activity and a concentrated number of reptile nests. ...
Full-text available
The ecology of Kinosternon baurii (Striped Mud Turtle) has been studied in only a few locations within its range, which means we do not have baseline data to understand the ecology of this species. Further, no studies have been conducted on Striped Mud Turtles in restored wetlands, which are increasingly common in Florida landscapes and across the globe. Comparing populations in restored habitats to natural habitats could give insight into restoration success that focuses on supporting robust semi-aquatic turtle populations. We conducted a mark-recapture study at a restored wetland in Circle B Bar Reserve, in Polk County, FL, to assess the population size, sex ratios and morphometrics of the Striped Mud Turtle. We found a population estimate of 90 adults, from over 2849 checked trap nights over 2 years. Previous studies in natural habitats found larger populations of Striped Mud Turtles. Our morphometric data is similar to others in central and south Florida but adds to the conclusion that habitat variation can impact size variation of Striped Mud Turtles. In our population, we had more females than males (68.8% females), which appears to be consistent for Striped Mud Turtles in most other study sites. Overall, our study provides additional knowledge on the ecology, population size, and morphometrics of Striped Mud Turtles, which local reserve managers can use to better understand the turtles, especially in restored habitats.
... s t rt es t at remain in the wetland would be able to si nificant s orten t e inactivit and deprivation period, probably to only about 30 days or even less. Why some individuals of K. scorpioides start to migrate to the forest of PVNP during February (not counting nesting (Stemle et al. 2019). Apparently, heavy rainfall initiates mass migration in this species and extreme temperature inhibits terrestrial movement (Wygoda 1979). ...
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Terrestrial movements, activity patterns and habitat use by Kinosternon scorpioides (Testudines: Kinosternidae) in Palo Verde National Park, Costa Rica. The Scorpion Mud turtle, Kinosternon scorpioides, is a widely distributed, semiaquatic species known to engage in regular terrestrial movement and terrestrial estivation. We studied terrestrial behavior in this species in Palo Verde National Park, northwestern Costa Rica. We determined terrestrial activity patterns by searching for active individuals during transects along 3.4 km of trails. We determined the distance that turtles traveled between the et ands and estivation sites b fittin 1 terrestria active individ a s it a t read bobbin trac in device attac ed to t e rear of t e carapace. e identified se and mar ed and measured every turtle found active. We accumulated 92 observations of K. scorpioides active on and and e identified t o be aviors: trave in and nestin. ese t rt es s o ed a bimodal activity pattern (χ 2 = 18.1, p < 0.02, df = 8) with maximum activity during early morning hours (06:00 to 08:00 h) and twilight and early evening hours (16:00 to 20:00 h). We found 41 turtles estivating in deciduous dry forest at an average distance (± SE) of 156.4 ± 13.7 m (range 20.9-304.9 m) from the wetland border (water´s edge). Adults estivated at greater distances from the wetland than did juvenile turtles, and males estivated at greater distances than females. Turtles found estivating were in three different habitats: leaf litter (85%), rock cavities (10%), and tree buttresses (5%). Kinosternon scorpioides was observed to estivate for at least 84 days in PVNP during the dry season. We recorded several behavioral traits that may account for its ability to withstand desiccation during the estivation period. Our work underscores the need to include terrestrial habitats when considering the conservation needs of semiaquatic turtles. Resumen Movimientos terrestres, patrones de actividad y uso de hábitat por Kinosternon scorpioides (Testudines: Kinosternidae) en el Parque Nacional Palo Verde, Costa Rica. La tortuga candado, Kinosternon scorpioides, es una especie semiacuática ampliamente distribuida conocida por presentar movimientos terrestres regulares y estivación terrestre. Estudiamos el comportamiento terrestre de esta especie en el Parque Nacional Palo Verde, noroeste de Costa Rica. Determinamos sus patrones de actividad terrestre mediante la búsqueda de individuos activos en transectos a lo largo de 3,4 km de senderos. Determinamos la distancia que las tortugas viajaron entre el humedal y los sitios de estivación al seguir a 10 individuos activos en tierra a los que les pegamos un carrete de hilo en la parte posterior de capara ón. dentificamos e se o marcamos medimos todas as tort as e encontramos activas. Acumulamos 92 observaciones de K. scorpioides activas en tierra e identificamos dos comportamientos: viajar y anidar. Estas tortugas mostraron un patrón de actividad bimodal (χ 2 = 18,1, p < 0,02, gl = 8) con máxima actividad durante las primeras horas de la mañana (06:00-08:00 h) y el crepúsculo y las primeras horas de la noche (16:00-20:00 h). Encontramos 41 tortugas estivando en el bosque seco caducifolio a una distancia promedio (± SE) de 156.4 ± 13.7 m (20.9-304.9 m) del borde del humedal (borde del agua). Los adultos estivaron a mayor distancia del humedal que las tortugas juveniles y los machos estivaron a mayor distancia que las hembras. Las tortugas que encontramos estivando las encontramos en tres hábitats diferentes: hojarasca (85%), cavidades rocosas (10%) y raíces triangulares de árboles (5%). Kinosternon scorpioides estivó durante al menos 84 días en el Parque Nacional Palo Verde durante la estación seca. Registramos varios rasgos de comportamiento que pueden explicar su capacidad para resistir la desecación durante el período de estivación. Nuestro trabajo subraya la necesidad de incluir hábitats terrestres al considerar las necesidades de conservación de las tortugas semiacuáticas. Palabras clave: Bosque seco, Cambio climático global, Sitios de estivación, Tortuga candado, Tortugas de agua dulce. Resumo Movimentos terrestres, padrões de atividade e usio de hábitat em Kinosternon scorpioides (Testudines: Kinosternidae) no Parque Nacional de Palo Verde, Costa Rica. O cágado peito-de-mola, Kinosternon scorpioides, é uma espécie semiaquática amplamente distribuída, conhecida por se envolver em movimentos terrestres regulares e estivação terrestre. Estudamos o comportamento terrestre dessa espécie no Parque Nacional de Palo Verde, noroeste da Costa Rica. Determinamos padrões de atividade terrestre por meio da procura de indivíduos ativos durante os transectos ao longo de 3,4 km de trilhas. Determinamos a distância que as tartarugas percorriam entre as zonas úmidas e os locais de estivação dotando 10 indivíduos terrestres ativos com bobinas de rastreamento na por o posterior da carapa a. dentificamos o se o e marcamos e medimos cada tartar a encontrada em atividade. Acumulamos 92 observações de K. scorpioides ativas em terra e identificamos dois comportamentos: des ocamento e nidifica o. ssas tartar as mostraram m padrão de atividade bimodal (χ 2 = 18,1, p < 0,02, df = 8), com atividade máxima durante as primeiras horas da manhã (06:00-08:00 h) e o crepúsculo e as primeiras horas da noite (16:00-20:00. ncontramos 1 tartar as estivando em oresta seca dec d a a ma dist ncia m dia de 156,4 ± 13,7 m (intervalo de 20,9-304,9 m) da fronteira da zona úmida (borda da água). Os adultos estivaram a maiores distâncias da zona úmida do que os juvenis, e os machos estivaram a maiores distâncias do que as fêmeas. As tartarugas encontradas estivando encontravam-se em três diferentes habitats: serapilheira (85%), cavidades de rochas (10%) e raízes tabulares (5%). Observou-se que K. scorpioides estivou durante pelo menos 84 dias no Parque Nacional de Palo Verde durante a estação seca. Foram registradas várias características comportamentais que podem explicar sua capacidade de resistir ao dessecamento durante o período de estivação. Nosso trabalho ressalta a necessidade de incluir hábitats terrestres ao considerar as necessidades de conservação das tartarugas semiaquáticas. Palavras-chave: Bosque seco, Cágados, Mudança climática global, Peito-de-mola, Sítios de estivação.
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We describe the home range and movements of a population of Kinosternon integrum in Tonatico, Estado de México, México, over 3.5 years (during rainy and dry season months) using radiotelemetry in 37 adult turtles. The results showed that the home range of K. integrum was 0.151 ± 0.051 ha using 50% kernel density estimator (KDE), and 0.657 ± 0.214 ha using 95% KDE; the home range did not vary between sexes. Kinosternon integrum showed low distances traveled 51.44 ± 4.50 m, where 87.3% (n = 373) of movements were <100 m. The distance traveled differed by season, and movement category (aquatic and terrestrial movements). The shortest distance occurred during the dry season, during which some individuals move to estivation sites, and these movements were shorter than movements to artificial ponds (cattle ponds). In this population, home range and movement are similar to other species of the genus Kinosternon. Overall, the results indicate than K. integrum are highly dependent on aquatic habitats, but also utilize the terrestrial habitats for different biological activities, and to maintain viable populations. Therefore, the conservation of the entire inhabited area is fundamental. This study highlights the need to increase the studies, in Central México, concerning habitat use of freshwater turtles in order to increase the efficiency of conservation strategies.
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1.Home range is the area traversed by an animal in its normal activities. The size of home ranges is thought to be tightly linked to body size, through size effect on metabolic requirements. Due to the structure of Eltonian food pyramids, home range sizes of carnivores are expected to exceed those of herbivorous species. The habitat may also affect home range size, with reduced costs of locomotion or lower food abundance in e.g., aquatic habitats selecting for larger home ranges. Furthermore, home range of males in polygamous species may be large due to sexual selection for increased reproductive output. 2.Comparative studies on home range sizes have rarely been conducted on ectotherms. Because ectotherm metabolic rates are much lower than those of endotherms, energetic considerations of metabolic requirements may be less important in determining the home range sizes of the former, and other factors such as differing habitats and sexual selection may have an increased effect. 3.We collected literature data on turtle home range sizes. We used phylogenetic generalised least squares analyses to determine whether body mass, sex, diet, habitat and social structure, affect home range size. 4.Turtle home range size increases with body mass. However, body mass explains relatively little of the variation in home range size. Aquatic turtles have larger home ranges than semiaquatic species. Omnivorous turtles have larger home ranges than herbivores and carnivores, but diet is not a strong predictor. Sex and social structure are unrelated to home range size. 5.We conclude that energetic constraints are not the primary factor that determines home range size in turtles, and energetic costs of locomotion in different habitats probably play a major role. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
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Striped mud turtles, Kinosternon baurii palmarum, from the Gulf Hammock region of the Florida mainland exhibit color patterns characteristic of Lower Florida Keys K. b. baurii. Although biogeographic and geologic evidence suggest former faunal interchange between the two areas, multivariate analyses of 23 mensural character ratios indicate very little morphometric similarity between the two populations. Further, those characters that do vary geographically over the species' range show clinal trends along a north-south peninsular axis. Analysis of these latter characters revealed a general clinal tendency for plastral reduction from north to south Florida, a phenomenon noted also in Kinosternon subrubrum. In conclusion, the presence of at least one other population on the mainland exhibiting pattern characters typical of Lower Keys' turtles, the great variability in color patterns observed throughout the species' range, and the lack of morphometric distinctiveness of Lower Keys Kinosternon baurii do not justify present subspecific designations.
Habitat protection and restoration are used to promote recovery in endangered reptile species, yet the long-term consequences of these efforts can be difficult to assess. Measuring the effects of habitat restoration on turtles can be especially difficult because of long generation times and consequent time lags between restoration activities and population-level responses to these activities. We collected 24 years of mark-recapture, size structure, and nest survival data on a population of International Union of Concerned Naturalists (IUCN)-Endangered Blanding's turtles (Emydoidea blandingii) inhabiting a large restored wetland-upland complex in Wisconsin, USA. We used these data to examine survival and recruitment in the population and the response of individual aggregations of nesting females to recent restoration of an extensive upland prairie-oak barrens nesting habitat. The population exhibited positive growth over the 24-year period (λ=1.03) based on temporal asymmetry mark-recapture models. Population growth rates were greatest in a recently restored prairie-barrens nesting area because of relatively high recruitment of nesting females. Females nesting in the recently restored prairie-barrens habitat were smaller and decreased in size over time compared to females using 2 older nesting areas, suggesting that recruitment was relatively high because of an influx of young breeding females. Nest depredation probability decreased with increasing distance from forest edges, suggesting that the recent clearing of woody vegetation in recently restored habitat increased reproductive success. Collectively, our results highlight the potential benefits of habitat restoration to turtles and identify upland habitats as a key to promoting population growth in turtles with complex habitat requirements.
Courtship and mating behavior were observed in captive Kinosternon flavescens flavescens. Members of this species have, in part, a specialized and unique pattern that otherwise conforms with previous descriptions of such behavior in kinosternid turtles. The same courtship and mating procedure was also observed in Kinosternon baurii palmarum. Courtship and mating were divided into 3 general phases: tactile; initial mounting; and copulatory. Observations suggest that species of Sternotherus and Kinosternon have each developed their own specialized courtship and mating pattern that may have been derived from a single common origin.
Terrestrial movements of a population of striped mud turtles, Kinosternon baurii, were monitored from March 1975 through April 1976 using trailing devices and terrestrial and aquatic traps. Studies were centered at a riverine forest pond and adjacent seasonal swamps in west-central Florida. A total of 67 turtles were marked and captured 157 times. The male to female ratio was 1:2 in the pond and 1:1 in the swamps. The results indicate that annual terrestrial activity is bimodal. During the first phase (Feb-July) the population disperses from the drying pond to aestivation sites in the forest. Turtles return as summer rains begin to fill the pond but soon thereafter migrate to newly formed shallow swamps. During the second phase (Sept-Dec) turtles return to the pond as the swamps dry. Terrestrial activity is correlated with water depth and the incidence of rainfall. Heavy rainfall apparently initiates mass migrations and extreme temperature inhibits terrestrial movements. It is suggested that social interactions are responsible for the disproportionate number of males which occupy the pond.
Kinosternon b. baurii, listed as threatened by the state of Florida, is still relatively common in favorable habitats in the Lower Florida Keys. A total of 137 turtles were captured on the southern portion of Summerland Key, which is extensively man-altered; only 26 were trapped on uninhabited Johnston Key. Mark recapture rates indicate that total populations in these areas may be 1.6-2 times higher. K. b. baurii requires ponds that are less than 15 ppt salinity for aquatic activity. Turtles given a choice preferred land when water salinity was above 17.5 ppt (50% sea water), but preferred water when the salinity was 8.5 ppt (25% sea water) or below. In the field, long periods may be spent on land in terrestrial retreats during times when unfavorable conditions exist in the ponds. A single retreat may be used repeatedly by the same turtle(s). Evaporative water loss was quite low (about 0.5% mass/day) in the laboratory, and presumably also in the field during these periods of terrestrial activity. Individual turtles are extremely faithful to their "home" ponds and only rarely move to adjacent ones. The greatest density of turtles (59) was found in a small series of artificial ditches cut through the surface rock into the underlying fresh water lens. Density in natural ponds containing a minimum of two animals was related to the log of pond surface area. K. b. baurii is more tolerant of immersion in 35 ppt (100%) sea water than other kinosternids studied, including K. b. palmarum, but is not capable of long term survival. Its success in colonizing Lower Keys habitats is largely due to its ability to use terrestrial retreats when pond conditions are adverse.