Investigating potential for depensation in marine turtles: how low can you go?

Conserv Biol. 2010 Feb;24(1):226-35. doi: 10.1111/j.1523-1739.2009.01313.x. Epub 2009 Aug 31.


Where mechanisms inherent within the biology of a species affect individual fitness at low density, demographic-scale depensation may occur, hastening further decline and leading ultimately to population extirpation and species extinction. Reduction in fertility at low population densities has been identified in marine and terrestrial species. Using data on hatch success and hatchling-emergence success as proxies for fertilization success, we conducted a global meta-analysis of data from breeding aggregations of green turtles (Chelonia mydas) and loggerhead turtles (Caretta caretta). We found that there has been no reduction in fertility in small nesting aggregations in either of these species worldwide. We considered mechanisms within the mating strategies and reproductive biology of marine turtles that may allow for novel genetic input and facilitate enhanced gene flow among rookeries. Behavioral reproductive mechanisms, such as natal philopatry and polyandry, may mitigate potential impacts of depensation and contribute to the resilience of these species.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Breeding*
  • Female
  • Male
  • Marine Biology*
  • Sexual Behavior, Animal
  • Turtles / physiology*