Terrapin Predators - Samuel Buzuleciu

Diamondback terrapin (Malaclemys terrapin) are unique among turtles in that they are the only species in the US, and one of three in the world, living entirely in brackish estuarine environments. In May 2013, the diamondback terrapin was placed in review for protection under the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species. Eggs of diamondback terrapin may experience extraordinarily high predation rates, e.g. > 90%, from a variety of predators. Egg depredation is the greatest natural threat to terrapin populations. Depredation of terrapin eggs affects the demographic structure and ultimate success of their local populations.

Diamondback terrapin are primarily aquatic, however, gravid females venture onto land during spring and summer to lay their eggs. In South Carolina, typical terrapin nesting sites consist of open sandy upland habitats with high solar insolation. Because appropriate nesting sites are limited in estuarine environments, nest density is high in suitable habitats resulting in concentrated predation pressure.

During (May-August) 2013, we conducted a series of field experiments to identify cues used by predators to locate terrapin nests. Our results indicate that the primary nest predators (raccoons) locate nests using olfactory cues. Surprisingly, we determined that raccoons are attracted to the scent of recently excavated soil rather than scent of terrapin themselves. Our results are unique from all previous studies because they indicate that volatile compounds produced by soil bacteria are released during nest excavation by the female terrapin and consequently serve as an olfactory cue used by raccoons to locate nests. The compound, or suite of compounds, used by predators to locate nests is yet unknown.

shell terrapin/home.txt · Last modified: December 19, 2016 (external edit)