We will also quantify the overall size variation among leatherback hatchlings at SPNWR. Understanding factors that affect hatchling body size, which may be a measure of fitness, and identifying males through paternity analysis will help inform management strategies for leatherbacks. We greatly appreciate the financial support of The National Save The Sea Turtle Foundation in furthering this important research.
Determine if there is a correlation between hatchling size variation and differential paternity within leatherback clutches.
Determine whether there is a correlation between hatchling size variation and the number of contributing fathers among leatherback clutches.
Quantify overall leatherback hatchling size variation at Sandy Point National Wildlife Refuge, St. Croix, USVI.
A preliminary study using eight nests with 12 hatchlings each revealed multiple paternity in four out of eight nests. For these four nests, we found no significant difference between the sizes of hatchlings based on paternal identity within a clutch. A larger sample size is needed to strengthen and further evaluate this conclusion. This investigative study found a much higher rate of multiple paternity (50%) than the previously reported rate of 23.6% (Stewart and Dutton, 2014). The eight nests analyzed were selected because they had the highest size variation of nests measured. It is possible that this biased selection, in addition to small sample size, explains the high rate of multiple paternity. This indicates that nests with multiple paternity may have more within nest body size variation, and this warrants further investigation with more hatchlings from additional nests using random selection of both nests and hatchlings.