Document Type

Article

Publication Date

2004

Abstract

Although factors influencing turtle offspring prior to nest emergence have received considerable attention by researchers (Gutzke and Crews 1988; Janzen et al. 2000; Packard and Packard 1987), the activity of neonates following their emergence from the nest is poorly understood (but see Burger 1976; Butler and Graham 1995; Keller et al. 1997). Previous field research has produced valuable information on several aspects of neonate ecology for several species (Brewster and Brewster 1991; Butler and Sowell 1996; Janzen 1993). However, a thorough understanding of life history patterns for many species is absent, and some existing information is conflicting (e.g., Congdon et al. 1999; Janzen et al. 2000). The lack of knowledge is primarily due to the cryptic nature of neonates and various logistical problems associated with studying small animals in the field. Recent advances in radio telemetry technology such as decreased transmitter size and increased battery life facilitate tracking small neonate turtles for a longer duration.

We studied nest dispersal and habitat use in neonate box turtles using a relatively new, very small radio transmitter. Few studies have been conducted using telemetry on neonate turtles (e.g., Butler et al. 1995), and none has focused on nest dispersal and habitat use of neonate box turtles.

The study was conducted at Rhodes-France Boy Scout Reservation (RFBSR) located in western Shelby County, Illinois, USA (39°19'N; 89°02'W), from March to April 2002. Two nests were located by radio tracking gravid female turtles during summer 2001 (Flitz 2003). The nests were sited in relatively open areas next to a tree stump in a grassy field and at the edge of a fire trail (see Flitz 2003 for more description). Nest disturbance was prevented by using excluder devices, made of hardware cloth of 0.6 cm2 mesh and 30 cm diameter with walls buried 15 cm into the ground, around the nest until the end of the 2001 activity season. Upon hatching and emergence, neonate turtles from both nests (clutch sizes were 4 and 5, respectively) were collected, brought to our laboratory and allowed to overwinter in an outdoor enclosure (1.5 x 1.5 m) under ambient conditions. Each turtle was marked with a unique series of notches in the marginal scutes. This facilitated identification and placement back at the proper nest site the following spring.

Comments

Forsythe, Patrick., Beth Flitz, and Stephen J. Mullin. "Radio telemetry and post-emergent habitat selection of neonate box turtles (Emydidae: Terrapene carolina) in central Illinois." Herpetological Review 35, no. 4 (2004): 333-335.

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