SREL Reprint #0209




Terrestrial Activity and the Population Dynamics of Aquatic Turtles

J. Whitfield Gibbons



A method of measuring terrestrial activity in aquatic turtles is presented. The importance of this activity is indicated in considering some aspects of the population ecology of the species involved. Based on captures in terrestrial pitfall traps, up to 30% of the turtles inhabiting a Carolina bay in South Carolina traveled on to land during an eighth-month period of study. This suggests that terrestrial activity may be very important in the population dynamics of aquatic turtles. The trapping method revealed a directional trend in emigrating individuals and a random movement by immigrants. Individuals of at least four species moved back and forth between contiguous aquatic areas.  Terrestrial activity could not be correlated consistently with any single environmental factor.  Initial activity in spring and cessation in autumn are presumably influenced by temperature.  Rainfall apparently provoked terrestrial movement in autumn but not during other parts of the year.


SREL Reprint #0209

Gibbons, J.W. 1970. Terrestrial activity and the population dynamics of aquatic turtles. The American Midland Naturalist 83:404-414.

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