Correlation Between Microbial Community and Hatching Failure in Loggerhead Sea Turtle Caretta caretta

Microb Ecol. 2023 Oct;86(3):1923-1933. doi: 10.1007/s00248-023-02197-8. Epub 2023 Feb 20.


Microbial communities provide essential information about host ecology and could be helpful as a tool to improve species conservation efforts. However, microbes can also infect and compromise the host development process and viability. Caretta caretta is the most widespread marine turtle species in the Mediterranean basin and is the only species of sea turtle nesting along the Italian coasts. Little is known about the microbiota composition of the nest of sea turtles and its correlation with hatching failures. In this study, the microbial composition of two nests of C. caretta featuring different rates of hatching success from a nesting beach in Lampedusa (Italy) was analyzed and compared. The bacterial community was determined using culture-dependent methods and next-generation sequencing based on 16S rRNA gene metabarcoding analysis. Our results showed five dominant bacterial phyla (Proteobacteria, Bacteroidetes, Actinobacteria, Verrucomicrobia, and Firmicutes) and indicated different bacterial families (Pseudomonadaceae and Brucellaceae) as likely causes of hatching failures. Besides, our findings demonstrated the nests' active role in modulating the sand's bacterial communities. This study suggests microbiological analysis could be a valuable tool in monitoring nests to take preventive actions and reduce hatching failures.

Keywords: 16S rRNA gene metabarcoding; Brucella; Caretta caretta; Microbiota; Nest hatching; Pseudomonas.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bacteria / genetics
  • Ecology
  • Microbiota*
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S / genetics
  • Turtles*


  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S