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Journal of Marine Biology
Volume 2014, Article ID 351921, 10 pages
http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2014/351921
Research Article

Olive Ridley Sea Turtle Hatching Success as a Function of Microbial Abundance and the Microenvironment of In Situ Nest Sand at Ostional, Costa Rica

1Department of Biology, College of Charleston, 66 George Street, Charleston, SC 29424, USA
2Department of Biological Sciences, Southeastern Louisiana University, SLU Box 10736, Hammond, LA 70402, USA

Received 11 August 2014; Revised 18 November 2014; Accepted 21 November 2014; Published 22 December 2014

Academic Editor: Horst Felbeck

Copyright © 2014 Vanessa S. Bézy et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Abstract

Sea turtle hatching success at mass nesting beaches is typically lower than at solitary nesting beaches, presumably due in part to high rates of microbial metabolism resulting from the large input of organic matter from turtle eggs. Therefore, we tested the hypothesis that hatching success varies across areas of the beach in conjunction with differences in the physical nest environment and microbial abundance of in situ olive ridley sea turtle nests at Ostional, Costa Rica. We marked natural nests in high-density, low-density, and tidal-wash nesting areas of the beach and monitored clutch pO2 and temperature throughout the incubation period. We quantified hatching success and collected samples of nest sand during nest excavations. We quantified microbial abundance (bacteria and fungi) with a quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) analysis. Hatching success was lower in nests with lower pO2, higher temperatures, higher organic matter content, and higher microbial abundance. Our results suggest that the lower oxygen within the nest environment is likely a result of the high microbial abundance and rates of decomposition in the nest sand and that these factors, along with increased temperature of clutches in the high-density nesting area, are collectively responsible for the low hatching success at Ostional.