Green sea turtle nesting breaks record; loggerheads look strong

Mote Marine Laboratory scientists are excited to share the encouraging, preliminary results of their annual count of Southwest Florida sea turtle nests.

During the 2015 nesting season that began May 1, Mote-monitored beaches from Longboat Key through Venice have hosted a record number of green sea turtle nests and potentially tied their past combined record for greens and loggerheads.

This year’s record for green turtles is confirmed, but loggerhead numbers and the grand total must be confirmed or updated following a thorough review of data once nesting season officially concludes on Oct. 31.

Nests in Southwest Florida continue to hatch, so it is important to keep beaches dark and clear of obstacles for hatchlings trying to reach the water throughout the season.

Mote’s Sea Turtle Patrol — a group of scientists, interns and volunteers who are monitoring nesting beaches for their 34th year on Longboat Key through Venice — report that 2015 brought a preliminary count of 2,433 loggerhead sea turtle nests and a confirmed count of 36 confirmed green sea turtle nests.

The 36 green sea turtle nests broke Mote’s previous record: 30 green turtle nests in 2013. In recent years, green turtle numbers around Florida have risen encouragingly. Statewide numbers are still being tallied, but so far, certain areas of Florida have reported exciting 2015 counts. (For example, USA Today reported recently on high green turtle counts from a wildlife refuge on Florida’s east coast, where greens are generally more prevalent.

Adding up nests from green and from loggerheads, the more common species for Southwest Florida, Mote’s preliminary grand total is 2,469 nests. If confirmed, it will equal the record total that Mote reported in 2012.

“We’re really pleased that green sea turtles broke their local record this year and that loggerheads, and the overall total, might tie with their best year yet,” said Kristen Mazzarella, Senior Biologist with Mote’s Sea Turtle Conservation and Research Program.

One 2015 nest currently labeled “loggerhead” was sampled for genetic testing to double-check its parent species. Genetic tests conducted after the 2014 season revealed two nests from an unusual visitor: a hybrid loggerhead/hawksbill sea turtle. Mote scientists want to know if a hybrid has also visited this year.

Hybrids from loggerheads mating with hawksbills are uncommon, but not unprecedented, elsewhere in the world. Mote has never documented a hawksbill nesting in its patrol area and had never documented a hawksbill-loggerhead hybrid locally until 2014. It is unknown whether any have slipped “under the radar”; hawksbill tracks on the beach can resemble those from loggerheads, and scientists often must see a nesting turtle or hatchlings to suspect a hybrid. In 2014 a suspected hybrid mother was observed and the hatchlings and eggs from its two nests were determined to have genetic traits from both loggerhead and hawksbill sea turtles. It may be months before similar testing can be conducted for the unconfirmed, 2015 nest.

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Longboat Key News

2 Responses for “Green sea turtle nesting breaks record; loggerheads look strong”

  1. Cyndi says:

    Great numbers so far for 2015 sea turtle season! Thank you for getting the news out to our community.
    Hope this will remind beach lovers that we still have a few nests out there that have not hatched. Please keep it dark for the hatchlings that will be emerging. We hope to see little tracks going WEST when we do turtle patrol in the morning.
    Please keep the beach clean for all to enjoy.

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