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19. FAMILY CHELONIIDAE
Colin J. Limpus & Jeffrey D. Miller

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FAMILY CHELONIIDAE 2 .19.

mydas and E. imbricata the carapace scutes are thick and imbricate (Pl. The head can be withdrawn partially beneath the carapace.2 m for Ch. HISTORY OF DISCOVERY Marine turtles have been known to coastal peoples since ancient times. All species have a worldwide distribution in tropical and temperate waters. Lepidochelys olivacea (pacific ridley turtle). mydas (Hirth 1971). Cameron & Cogger 1983).8 m for L. olivacea up to 1. Stokes and Jukes recognised Ca. Data presented in this chapter refer to the Australian populations. and Natator depressus (flatback turtle). and N. Flinders. mydas and E. and their journals provide insights into the abundance and distribution of turtles at the time of early European contact with Australia. depressus was described from northern Australia by Garman in 1880 (Cogger. The eggs and meat were used as food and the carapace scutes were used in constructing ornaments and utilitarian items as well as sacred objects. and keratinised epidermal scutes on the head.19. comprising the hard-shelled marine turtles. Zangerl. 1829) was first described from the Philippines. imbricata were described from the Atlantic Ocean basin by Linnaeus (1758. imbricata (Witzell 1983). Ch. The family is represented in Australia by five species. While the Australian endemic N. King. its generic classification was not resolved for a further century (Limpus. large. Zangerl et al. The keratinised scutes. Explorers like Dampier. FAMILY CHELONIIDAE DEFINITION AND GENERAL DESCRIPTION The Cheloniidae. L. Hendrickson & Hendrickson 1988). The ribs are fused to the overlying pleural bones which. Bligh. are fused to each other to form the shield-like bony carapace in adults. except for N. depressus which is endemic to the Australian region. mydas. The carapace is oval to round and the head. Carapace length varies from 0. Gyuris & Miller 1988. caretta (Dodd 1988). 1766). Lepidochelys olivacea was not recognised as being part of the Australian fauna until 1969 (Cogger & Lindner 1969). 3. in turn. imbricata (Jukes 1847). Lepidochelys olivacea (Eschscholz. carapace and plastron are covered in keratinised scutes. olivacea (Marquez 1976) and N. with little detectable variability in chromosomal morphology between genera (Kamezaki 1990). imbricata) were traded (Parsons 1962). unless otherwise indicated. regular flaking of the surface layers keeps 3 . depressus had been described as early as 1880. depressus (Limpus et al. The family is characterised by non-retractable. Chelonia mydas (green turtle). Cook. Ca. During early exploration in northern Australia. is one of only two surviving cryptodiran families from the past diverse marine turtle faunas (Pritchard & Trebbau 1984). of E. MORPHOLOGY AND PHYSIOLOGY Details of morphology and physiology may be found in the synopses and recent reviews of the species— Ch. or tortoiseshell. and there are no cusps on the upper jaw sheaths (Pritchard & Trebbau 1984). flippers. paddle-like flippers each with one or two claws. Eretmochelys imbricata (hawksbill turtle). while in the other genera. cheloniid turtles were sought actively for fresh meat. caretta. E. External Characteristics The weight of adult cheloniids ranges from 35 to >200 kg. Cheloniid turtles have a chromosome number of 2n = 56. each referred to a separate genus: Caretta caretta (loggerhead turtle). 1988). 1988. Caretta caretta. Ch. In E.2). carapace and plastron.

the Cheloniidae appear to fly through the water. Pl. costal plate. but tend to be darker dorsally than the adults. caretta are black and redbrown.3). the cloaca. scutes and bones of the carapace. (After Zangerl et al. Cheloniids have elongate and paddle-like front flippers and short. csc. using their front flippers as birds use their wings. B. depressus (Pl.19. The relatively inflexible carapace consists of an outer epidermal layer with keratinised scutes. suprapygal. 3. oval rear flippers. respectively. 16. epiplastron. proneural. nup. xpp. precentral scute. In the pubescent or adult male.4C. FAMILY CHELONIIDAE Figure 19. Pritchard & Trebbau (1984) and Zangerl et al. preneural plate. olivacea are dark olive-grey to blackish dorsally. 3. peripheral bone. Pl. peripheral and pygal bones) which are fused to each other and to the underlying ribs and vertebrae. pnp. olivacea. the thrust from the anterior 4 . 1988) [[T. Cheloniid turtles vary in dorsal colour from uniform grey (L.6) to mottled black. The dorsal colours of Ch. neural.1 Carapace and plastron of Natator depressus. and those of L. The plastron is less rigid. hpp. mydas. 1988). Body Wall and Skeletal System The general skeletal and cranial morphology of all genera have been described by Deraniyagala (1939). D). the hind flippers function as rudders and elevators (Walker 1971). brown and olive (Ch. the tail is longer and the plastron is flatter or slightly more concave than in a female. which opens to the outside through a single vent on the ventral surface of the tail. External sexual dimorphism is limited. cental scute enp.5) and are pale ventrally. pyb. Hatchlings of E. a thin dermal tissue layer overlying expanded dermal bones (pleural. epp. Wright]] the scutes thin. prb. psc. 3. neural plate. The carapace scutes of N. lateral scute. As with birds and bats. hypoplastron. The digestive tract and urinogenital system open into a common chamber. imbricata are brown. hyo. it is not as cartilaginous as in the Dermochelyidae. (1988). xiphyplastron. Gaffney (1979). mydas and Ca. Hatchlings are also variable in colour. In N. cpl. msc. lsc. with an inner neurocranium encasing the brain and an outer dermal cranium encasing the extensive muscles operating the jaws and anterior neck. There is little emargination or reduction in thickness of dermal bone to lighten the skull (Fig. entoplastron. The Cheloniidae has a typical anapsid skull. Locomotion When swimming. with substantial midline fontanelles reduced or contained by the nine plastron bones. pygal bone. marginal scute. A. bones of the plastron. 3. depressus are greyish with black margins (Pl.4) the keratin layer is so thin that it has a skin-like texture similar to that of Dermochelys corriacea (Dermochelyidae) (Limpus et al. hyoplastron.

Moodie 1979). alveolus-like structures. Kureha. Dodd 1988). Thirteen blood properties were correlated to turtle size and PCV was independent of sex and size of the turtles (Bolten & Bjorndal 1992). Dodd 1988). Limpus & Maloney 1989). caretta. Though they are capable of speeds up to 4 to 7 km/hr over limited distances (Hirth 1971. caretta has been reviewed by Dodd (1988). caretta. but is assumed to resemble that of other chelonians (Jackson 1979). Young Ch. There is a wide intrapulmonary bronchus with complete cartilage rings. On land. caretta are comparable to those of marine mammals and are adapted to prolonged diving and a high metabolic activity (by reptilian standards). olivacea use a quadrupedal walking gait. Ch. Ca. chelonians can maintain steady swimming for extended periods. The latter is the function of the lachrymal salt gland which is functional from the time the hatchling leaves the nest. Two gaits are used when on land: hatchlings and large Ca. Alston. While this is significant for preparation of artificial diets. Limpus & Marsh 1989). mydas is almost totally herbivorous and uses its serrated jaws for cropping algae. McRoy. FAMILY CHELONIIDAE girdles is transferred to a fused vertebral column for pulling the body forward. it may not be significant for diets containing natural proteins. larger than those of the carnivorous Ca. mydas the low digestibility of protein in sea grass probably is a result of most cell wall digestion occurring in the hind gut (Bjorndal 1979. mydas only levels of uric acid and cholesterol differed between the sexes. cartilage in the large trabeculae of the tubular chambers. Thomson (1980) has described the anatomy and histology of the digestive tract of Ch. essential amino acids required in the diet of young Ch. and the jaws and keratinised sheaths are specialised to cope with their respective diets. The kidney in Ch. mydas. stomach and colon. well-vascularised. imbricata and L. mydas and N. Caretta caretta can dive to 233 m with breath-holds up to 21 minutes (Sakamoto. Ogden. and it can digest cellulose as efficiently as ruminants and dugong. Eretmochelys imbricata has pointed. Miller. Marquez 1976. caretta and L. As an adult. sea grass and mangroves (Lanyon. As youngsters they change to a benthic feeding lifestyle. Uchida. Adaptations for herbivory in Ch. sharp-edged jaws for prying sponges out of crevices (Meylan 1985). mydas can maintain average speeds of 30 to 40 km/d over thousands of kilometres during migration (Limpus. Chelonia mydas depends on a rich cellulolytic microflora (bacteria) and microfauna (protozoa) in the caecum and colon for fibre digestion (Fenchel. Diet varies among the genera. The lungs of Ca. Caretta caretta and Ch. Reimer. Respiratory and Excretory Systems The anatomy of the circulatory system of cheloniid turtles has been neglected (for example. possibly ten. McLachlan & Webb 1992). Parmenter. In an assay of 27 blood chemistry properties and packed cell volume (PCV) for wild Ch. depressus (Bustard 1972).19. Blood chemistry and morphology for Ca. Wood (1974) identified nine. Tujimura & Sato 1990) to avoid turbulent surface waters. mydas is predominantly ammoniotelic as would be expected for an aquatic species (Khalil 1947). aided in part by the hind flippers. 1980). DarianSmith. mydas and Ca. However. The jaws of Ca. and a functional caecum. Whitzell 1983. Parker & Rainey 1979). E. Feeding and Digestive System Hatchlings of all genera commence life as carnivores feeding on surface zooplankton. caretta. Circulatory. caretta. mydas have the highest 5 . Naito. A breast-stroke-like gait in which the two front flippers push together. in Ch. the body slides along the ground. and a partial single capillary net and well developed pulmonary musculature (Perry. olivacea form large crushing plates with associated powerful muscles for breaking hard-bodied molluscs and crustaceans (Dodd 1988. is used by large Ch. but it does not contribute significantly to electrolyte/water balance. mydas include a large crop.

while that of Ca. caretta extends minimally from near-ultraviolet to red (360 to 700 nm) (Witherington & Bjorndal 1991a). These glands enable Ca. water-soluble proteins from the inguinal and axillary (Rathke’s) glands. Sense Organs and Nervous System Cheloniid turtles have an acute sense of smell (but not taste) that can operate underwater. The function of these secretions is not known (Mason 1992). Chelonia mydas has a greater spectral sensitivity for shorter wavelengths than Pseudemys scripta. caretta and Ch. FAMILY CHELONIIDAE Figure 19. but the lens is more strongly curved (Granda 1979). Thermoregulation Cheloniid turtles are only able to maintain their deep body temperature to within about 3°C above the ambient water temperature (Mrosovsky & Pritchard 1971) and do not have a thermoregulatory capacity comparable to that of the Dermochelyidae (see Chapter 20). The anatomy of chemical reception in chelonians was reviewed by Scott (1979). mydas extends at least from near-ultraviolet to green (360 to 500 nm).5 ml of sea water per hour with osmotic concentrations of lachrymal gland tears 1. Hatchlings are capable of excreting the Na+ content of approximately 0. Marshall & Cooper 1988). 6 .P.5 to 2. Ferrero/Auscape International) [[T. while increased cooling rates can be achieved by flushing the stomach with cold water. The pectoral muscle in actively swimming adult Ch. (After photo by J.2 Secretion of surplus salt from the eye of Caretta caretta. The eyes of cheloniid turtles are well developed and conform to the general chelonian eye. The lachrymal gland is the primary osmoregulatory organ in marine turtles. with spectral sensitivity peaking at 520 nm and secondary peaks at 600 nm and 450 to 460 nm (Granda 1979). mydas to maintain plasma homeostasis without access to fresh water (Bennett. 1990). but not all genera secrete lipids. Wright]] Na+ secretion rate for any reptile and a secretion rate similar to that of many marine birds.19. Thermal inertia resulting from large body size can contribute to slow cooling rates during deep dives into cold water. The role of chemoreception in the life of the marine turtle remains unclear. cheloniids are constantly sampling their surroundings by flushing water from the buccal cavity into the nasal cavities and out through the nostrils. mydas is about 7°C warmer than in inactive turtles (Standora. In the sea. if required (Sakamoto et al. Spotila & Foley 1982). body heat can be also generated via muscular activity. Cheloniid turtles secrete high-molecular-weight. The colour vision of Ch.0 times that of sea water (Marshall & Cooper 1988). The functioning of the olfactory epithelium of the nasal passages can be blocked by Zn++ ions (Manton 1979).2 to 0. Taplin & Grigg 1986. in which cones predominate in the retina. While some heat may be obtained through the dark dorsal surface during basking.

containing on average 50 to 132 eggs. caretta and Ch. Limpus 1971a. which produce mature ovarian follicles >2. mydas within 20 to 50 hours. Hatchlings of a single clutch may have different fathers as a result of fertilisation by sperm from several males having been stored in the oviducts (Harry & Briscoe 1988). Concentrations of E2. Nests are 43 to 70 cm deep. Prostaglandin PGF2a apparently stimulates oviducal contractions to expel eggs. or all year round with a dry season peak in activity. Serum testosterone levels also increase in the months before migration. Cheloniids produce white. Copulation usually occurs before the first ovulation for the season. with flexible calcareous shells (Miller 1985). Limpus. Surges in serum concentrations of follicle stimulating hormone. and are dug in the supratidal. Individual females normally do not breed in successive years (Hirth 1980. Cliffton & Penaflores 1982). 7 . depending on the species. Owens. Within a breeding season females lay one to 11 clutches. Palmer. Bolten. Levels of testosterone remain high during migration to the breeding area and mating (Wibbels. as occurs across northern Australia (Cogger & Lindner 1969. 1990).19. Limpus. ovulation and oviposition. The adult female has massive. at about two weekly intervals. paired ovaries. Witherington & Matter 1991). Licht. spherical eggs that average 35 to 55 mm in diameter (depending on the genus). FAMILY CHELONIIDAE Endocrine and Exocrine Systems Hormones appear to play an important role in facilitating specific physiological events during spermatogenesis. Prostaglandins have an active role in nesting behaviour and ovulation in Ca. luteinising hormone and progesterone occur in Ca. Fleay & Guinea 1984a. The egg laying period may be distinctly seasonal (summer in eastern and western Australia). Limpus. Reed & Amoss 1990). serum testosterone and serum progesterone are high at oviposition for each of the successive clutches laid during the breeding season. olivacea (Licht. except for the last clutch of the season when they are low (Wibbels et al. caretta. Reproduction Age at sexual maturity for eastern Australian cheloniids is probably about 30 to 50 years (Limpus & Walter 1980. A female may mate with a series of males and stores sperm in the oviducts for use later in the breeding season (Owens 1980. Adult male Ca. Limpus. following oviposition. Gross. The oviducts are up to 6 m long (Deraniyagala 1939. Similar surges occur in luteinising hormone and progesterone during the ovulatory and nesting cycle of L. Hatchlings emerge from nests approximately two months after the eggs are laid (Miller 1985). Bjorndal. Reed & Amoss 1992). Limpus 1991. caretta exhibit a prenuptial spermatogenic cycle that coincides with increased concentrations of serum testosterone. Baker & McLachlan 1983a). a significant rise occurs in serum oestradiol-17b (E2) concentration. Concentrations of serum testosterone decline and fluctuations in oestradiol are low or not detectable in the same period (Wibbels. Owens (1980) and Licht (1980) provide detailed reviews of marine turtle endocrinology. Limpus 1993). Bustard 1972). frontal sand-dunes (Hirth 1980. Owens. Miller. Limpus 1985). Fleay & Baker 1984b. Limpus 1985). Four to six weeks before adult female Ca. which decreases towards and during migration.5 cm in diameter. 1992). Owens. Owens 1980. while PGE2 may be more important in promoting cervical relaxation (Guillette. migration. vitellogenesis. caretta migrate. The function of follicle stimulating hormone and luteinising hormone in turtles may be different from their function in mammals (Licht 1980). Limpus 1971a. Limpus.

Takahashi & Limpus 1990). Couper]] Male Ca. planktonic phase. varies between species and breeding units.6°C (Limpus. caretta (Harry. After several years and one or more circuits of the ocean gyre. which may range from 25° to 33°C. Nest temperature. During this post-hatchling. hatchlings swim out to sea where they are dispersed by currents into the open ocean (Carr 1986). [[K. caretta appear to be annual breeders. 1990. which is not subjected to flooding (Ackerman 1980. Baker & Miller 1979. Vogt & Censky 1983). Post-hatchlings of N. At oviposition the embryos are at middle gastrulation (Stage 6. they must be laid in well ventilated. determines the length of the incubation period. Maloney. The theoretical temperature that produces a 1:1 sex ratio with constant temperature incubation (pivotal temperature). Darian-Smith. For eastern Australian Ca. Miller 1985). caretta. Yntema & Mrosovsky 1980. Embryology and Development The cleidoic eggs of cheloniids follow typical turtle embryological development. Testes are abdominal and a single grooved penis is erectile from within the cloaca. Williams & Briscoe 1990). low salinity. Miller 1985. high humidity nest substrate. Reed & Miller 1983b. FAMILY CHELONIIDAE Figure 19.19. The sex of hatchlings is a function of nest temperature during middle incubation (Miller & Limpus 1981. as they are entrained over the Australian continental shelf (Walker & Parmenter 1990). depressus are exceptions. the pivotal temperature is 28. Limpus 1993). Parmenter 1980). Limpus 1985). the juveniles are believed to feed on macrozooplankton at the surface convergence lines. the young of most species select a feeding area within continental shelf 8 .3 Mating in Natator depressus. Embryos can be killed by rotation of the eggs during incubation (Limpus. but this may not apply for other genera (Wibbels et al. For successful incubation. NATURAL HISTORY Life History After they emerge from the nest. of approximately 6 to 13 weeks (Miller 1985). McCoy. 1982. Two heterogeneous nuclear ribonucleoprotein particles that are differentially expressed in male and female embryonic urinogenital systems at different incubation temperatures are implicated in sexual differentiation of Ca.

which it leaves only during its breeding migrations (Limpus 1989. An immature turtle remains associated with the same continental shelf or inshore feeding area for years. especially coral reefs. Martin. Limpus et al. Sex ratios are variable and often significantly biased towards females (Limpus 1985. However. 1985b. In the tropics.19. possibly for life. The slow growth to maturity is reflected in the large proportion of the total population that is immature. it may make one or more shifts in feeding site before selecting the feeding area it occupies as an adult (Limpus 1982. Wahl]] waters and change to benthic feeding when they are approximately 300 to 400 mm in carapace length or greater. caretta require a high annual survivorship and a long breeding life to maintain population stability (Frazer 1983. It appears that large immature and adult Ca. Reliable predictive population models are scarce because of difficulties in estimating the age of individuals and the survivorship of cohorts over the vast feeding areas of a single population. depending on the species (Fig. Carr 1986). FAMILY CHELONIIDAE Figure 19. Owens & Amoss 1991). Chelonia mydas principally inhabits areas with abundant seagrass and algae. 1992). an adult associates with the one feeding area. Limpus & Reimer 1992. (After Lanyon. 19. 1985. Crouse. at least. 1992.4. Limpus & Marsh 1989) [[D. Crowder & Caswell 1987). The distribution and biology of post-hatchlings in Australian waters is poorly understood. Limpus & Reed 1985a. Conversely. rocky reefs and seagrass flats. Ecology Most ecological studies of marine turtles have been conducted on the nesting beaches.4 Generalised life cycle for a marine turtle. there have been few ecological studies of marine turtles in their aquatic habitats. and it 9 . Limpus & Reed 1985a). Wibbels. Turtles migrate from widely scattered feeding areas to breeding areas.

during the passage of seagrass through the gut. Within Australia the other species are associated with different foraging habitats. mydas clutches laid on the northern. Ch. especially nitrogen. delayed sexual maturity and long intervals between breeding seasons of wild Ch. the turtle returns to the environment a coarsely cut and partly digested faecal product with a C:N nutritional quality that is superior to the original seagrass (Thayer. 10 . and the cooler. Regularly nesting under trees. 1989). imbricata is mostly associated with hard-bottomed habitats. 1984a). A similar ENSO effect has not been detected in the other genera. or whether the hatchling is imprinted to the general region of her birth and subsequently imprinted to the specific rookery as an adult during the first breeding season (Limpus et al. 1983b. Bowen & Avise 1992). Genetic studies provide convincing evidence that the breeding adult does return to the region of birth (Gyuris & Limpus 1988. Reed & Miller 1983b. determine the proportion of adult female Ch. Ross. Nesting marine turtles can have some negative impacts on strand vegetation communities (Rogers 1989). It remains to be demonstrated however. brown sand beaches of mainland eastern Australia produce mostly female hatchlings of Ca. vegetation) and seeds back into the soil. As a result of the hind gut digestion of fibre and the incomplete removal of nutrients. and hence presumably the timing between breeding seasons. and E. humus. Bowen. mydas are probably under nutritional control rather than genetic control (Bjorndal 1980. Reed & Miller 1985). Limpus 1985. white sand beaches of the adjacent coral cays and shaded habitats produce mostly males (Limpus. and as eggs and hatchlings eaten by predators (Lanyon et al. 1992). while nesting they bury nutrients (eggs. 1984b. the grass and tree roots enhance the ease with which a nesting turtle can construct an egg chamber and hence deposit her eggs (Bustard & Greenham 1968). such as the El Niño southern oscillation (ENSO). Some of these nutrients then enter the food web at the rookeries as decaying eggs on the beach. 1992). the migrating female transports substantial quantities of nutrients from the feeding areas in the form of mature follicles which she deposits as eggs at the rookeries. Imprinting to the smell of the nest substrate or to the water that the hatchling first contacts may also occur (Grassman. Engel & Bjorndal 1982). could be a disadvantage to the turtle population in providing relatively cooler sand and thus affecting the sex ratio. Limpus et al. While slow growth. olivacea (Limpus 1975a. Balazs & Avis 1992. Thus the turtle increases the rate of movement of nitrogen and other elements through the food web of sea grass beds. Caretta caretta is most frequently found in shallow bays and reefs with abundant molluscs and crabs. caretta. In loose coralline sand. Meylan. whether this fidelity is the result of imprinting to the natal beach during the egg or hatchling phase. 1989). Lepidochelys olivacea seems to be associated with soft-bottom habitats which are deeper than those used by Ca. Owens. Limpus et al. Natator depressus occurs in similar soft-bottomed habitats to L. sunny side of islands produce mostly female hatchlings and the clutches on the southern shaded areas produce mostly males (Limpus et al. 1985). The warm. however. Limpus. they may also be characteristic of the family (Lanyon et al. Karl. caretta. mydas available to breed in any one year. McVey & Marquez 1984). On the other hand. However. Limpus & Nicholls (1988) have demonstrated that regional climatic events. FAMILY CHELONIIDAE appears to have a positive feed-back effect on the seagrass community. Behaviour The hatchling is imprinted by the earth’s magnetic field at the nesting beach as it leaves the nest (Lohmann 1991).19. In the southern Great Barrier Reef. Limpus.

then all four flippers (Fig. Figure 19. Greenham & Limpus 1971. she lays the eggs in the egg chamber and then conceals them with sand using first her rear flippers. Wherever there has been human contact with cheloniid turtles they have been harvested for food (either as eggs or the turtles for meat). Papua New Guinea. Wyneken. 1984b. Carr & Meylan 1978. Milliken & Tokunaga (1987) and Groombridge & Luxmoore (1989). Limpus 1985. below the body pit she digs a vertical sided. [[K. Overharvest of most populations for extended periods has caused significant global declines in 11 .5 Female Natator depressus nesting. Queensland and New South Wales (Limpus et al. Fritz & Lucas 1992). 1984a. Northern Territory. Recaptures of females tagged at the south-eastern Queensland rookeries have been recorded from Indonesia. Each adult female migrates faithfully between its particular feeding area and rookery. Hatchlings orient to low elevation light horizons when moving from the nest to the sea (Limpus 1971b. most migrate less than 1000 km to their rookeries.5. New Caledonia. Witherington & Bjorndal 1991b). although different paths are followed on their breeding migrations. 19. Bustard & Greenham 1969. olivacea has been taken for leather. Limpus 1992). The female selects a nest site above the tide level and clears the loose sand by excavating a body pit with the front and rear flippers. L. 1992). They can be disoriented by bright lights. and in Australia. imbricata has been harvested for tortoiseshell (= bekko in Japanese). oil. offshore water. mydas in particular has been eaten as meat and in soup. Natator depressus does not migrate beyond the Australian continental shelf (Limpus. FAMILY CHELONIIDAE The hatchling does not feed or sleep between leaving the nest and moving into deep. Pritchard 1971). E. Limpus et al. Limpus et al. Couper]] Economic Significance Harvests of eggs and turtles have been reviewed by Parsons (1962. While some migrate in excess of 2600 km. Solomon Islands. The Cheloniidae and the Dermochelyidae display remarkably similar nesting behaviours.19. Fiji. with most females returning to the same small beach for their successive clutches within a breeding season and in successive breeding seasons (Carr. although not by the yellow wave lengths of low pressure sodium vapour lights (Mrosovsky & Shettleworth 1975. Baker & Fleay 1983c). Adult females display a high degree of fidelity to their chosen nesting beach. skin for leather and scale for tortoiseshell or bone: Ch. Bustard. 1972). the hatchlings are directed to swim out to the open ocean (Salmon & Lohmann 1989). Parmenter. flask-shaped egg chamber with the hind flippers. By swimming perpendicular to wave fronts. Salmon. Marquez (1976).

and in South Africa (Hughes pers. imbricata occurs in Papua New Guinea.6 The primary breeding areas of the cheloniids Caretta caretta. All five species are present in northern Australian waters.19. 1985. and for Dermochelys coriacea. Natator depressus. Significant internal trade in Ch. Mumford]] 12 . while commercial egg harvesting is common in Indonesia and South-East Asia.[[W. Miller & Limpus 1991. but the major rookeries are more restricted in distribution (Fig. Ecotourism is established at Australian nesting sites (Bundaberg and Heron Island in the southern Great Barrier Reef). depressus is confined almost totally to the Australian continental shelf.). 19. on Raine Island and Moulter Cay and associated islands of the outer northern Great Barrier Reef. Monte Bello Islands and Barrow Island in northern Western Australia. Shading indicates the primary breeding areas: major nesting colonies (>1000 females/year) and minor colonies (hundreds of females/year) are indicated by closed and open circles. mydas and E. 1988). on Truant Island in north east Figure 19. The feeding distribution of N. and nesting is confined to Australian territory. sea turtle rookeries have potential use as a non-harvested commercial resource. FAMILY CHELONIIDAE marine turtle numbers and there is now an embargo on international trade in marine turtle products under the Convention for International Trade in Endangered Species (see Chapter 14). and on the Lacepede Islands. With increasing interest in ecotourism. respectively. and on Murion Island on the southern North West Shelf. and draws more than 35 000 visitors each summer. Caretta caretta nests in the Capricorn-Bunker Groups and adjacent Bundaberg mainland in the southern Great Barrier Reef. Indonesia and Cuba. Lepidochelys olivacea. on the Wellesley Group in the Gulf of Carpentaria. Chelonia mydas. Limpus 1982. Eretmochelys imbricata.6. Limpus et al. Chelonia mydas nests in the Capricorn-Bunker Groups of the southern Great Barrier Reef. BIOGEOGRAPHY AND PHYLOGENY Distribution All cheloniid genera except Natator have a worldwide distribution in tropical and temperate waters. comm. Eretmochelys imbricata nests in the northern Great Barrier Reef and Torres Strait.

B. Global population structure and natural history of the green turtle ( Chelonia mydas) in terms of matriarchal phylogeny. Proceedings of the Koninklijke Nederlandse Akademie van Wetenschappen (C) 78: 111-122 Bustard. (1979). Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology 63A: 127-133 Bjorndal. fads and little Loggerheads. A. Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology 83A: 507-513 Bjorndal. K. only five are extant—the monospecific Caretta. Carr. Karl et al. Lepidochelys olivacea nests in the McCluer Island Group of western Arnhem Land. R. All five genera are represented in Australia (Pritchard & Trebbaum 1984). 7. and on Delambre Island on the North West Shelf. R. Limpus. and on Rosemary Island on the North West Shelf. Marine Biology.E. Bioscience 36: 92-100 Carr. 1992. H. Taplin.. The widely spaced breeding concentrations for each species should be managed as separate stocks because there is little potential for recolonisation of depleted populations from other distant breeding concentrations (Bowen et al. (1971). (1972)...A. K.A. The west Caribbean green turtle colony. & Greenham. J. Greenham.J. G. P. K. 1992). Sea water drinking as a homeostatic response to dehydration in hatchling loggerhead turtles Caretta caretta. A. Journal of Wildlife Diseases 28: 407-413 Bowen. Evolution 46: 865-881 Bustard. J. (1978).R. Natator depressus nests in the Peak and Wild Duck Islands in inshore southern Great Barrier Reef. K. Chelonia mydas. (1986). including the Dermochelyidae. Affinities with other Groups and Fossil Record The Cheloniidae is one of six families of marine turtles known from the fossil record. A. Nutrition and grazing behaviour of the green turtle Chelonia mydas. Balazs. & Grigg..R. M. (1992). Physical and chemical factors affecting hatching in the green sea turtle. (1980).. in the Sir Edward Pellew Group in the Gulf of Carpentaria. which includes two species. Australia.C. Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History 162: 1-46 13 . Cellulose digestion and volatile fatty acid production in the green turtle. on Cobourg Peninsula and Greenhill Island in western Arnhem Land. Notochelone) and Protostegidae (Pritchard & Trebbaum 1984. Nutritional ecology of sea turtles. Physiological and ecological aspects of gas exchange by sea turtle eggs.W. Nesting behavior of loggerhead and flatback turtles in Queensland. (1980).. and the extinct Desmatochelyidae (Cratochelone.B. L. G.A.B. & Avise. FAMILY CHELONIIDAE Arnhem Land. on Crab Island and Deliverance Island of the northeast Gulf of Carpentaria and western Torres Strait. C. Collins : London 220 pp. (1968).M.M.J. (1986). Of the 31 genera attributed to Cheloniidae. Ecology 49: 269-276 Bustard. & Limpus. Four families have been recorded in Australia. (1985). and Lepidochelys. (1992).B. H.A. Blood profiles for a wild population of green turtles ( Chelonia mydas) in the southern Bahamas: size-specific and sex-specific relationships.A. A.H. A. The ecology and migration of sea turtles. Sea Turtles: Their Natural History and Conservation. J.P. Rips.19. & Bjorndal. Copeia 1985: 736-751 Bolten. Chelonia mydas. Chelonia. Carr. Meylan. Ross. LITERATURE CITED Ackerman. Berlin 56: 147-154 Bjorndal. Gaffney 1991). C.. & Meylan. Eretmochelys and Natator. P.C. American Zoologist 20: 575-583 Bennett.

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