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Embryo deformities and nesting trends in Kemp’s ridley sea turtles Lepidochelys kempii before and after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill

March 25, 2021

Kemp’s ridley sea turtles Lepidochelys kempii were disproportionately affected by the Deepwater Horizon (DWH) oil spill, which began on 20 April 2010. Embryo deformities were documented in inviable L. kempii eggs before (2008-2010) and after (2011-2013) the DWH spill in 2 Texas (USA) nesting areas (Upper Texas Coast and Padre Island National Seashore). Additional nesting trends, including clutch size and hatching success, were also investigated. Total and late-stage embryo deformity prevalence were 1.5 times greater after 2010 than before, but low in all nesting seasons (mean ± SD: 0.7 ± 8.5% total; 0.6 ± 8.0% late-stage) and did not differ between locations. Craniofacial and carapace deformities were the most frequently observed deformity types. Documented nests in both areas declined in 2010 relative to previous years, ending an exponential increase observed beginning in 1995. Clutch size remained consistent before and after the spill. Hatching success averaged 87.0 ± 33.3% in all years, but no effects from DWH were determined. Collectively, these data represent useful benchmarks against which to judge impacts of future crude oil spills and other catastrophic events.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2021
Title Embryo deformities and nesting trends in Kemp’s ridley sea turtles <i>Lepidochelys kempii</i> before and after the <i>Deepwater Horizon</i> oil spill
DOI 10.3354/esr01107
Authors Donna J. Shaver, Christian Gredzens, J. Shelby Walker, Céline A. J. Godard-Codding, Janet E. Yacabucci, Amy Frey, Peter H. Dutton, Christopher J. Schmitt
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Endangered Species Research
Series Number
Index ID 70219192
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Columbia Environmental Research Center

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