Nest-site selection, hatching success and hatchling over-winter success in painted turtles

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Hughes, Elinor J.
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University of Guelph

Female painted turtles may increase their fitness either by increasing the success of their offspring within a single reproductive season, or by increasing the number of reproductive seasons in which they can participate. Painted turtle nest-sites can be described in relation to specific microhabitat characteristics that, because of their effect on soil microclimate, may influence hatching success and/or over-winter success of hatchlings. Female painted turtles selected nest-sites based on canopy cover, understory vegetation, slope angle and aspect. Increased hatching success was associated with decreased organic content, which may serve as a surrogate for little or no vegetation cover and canopy. Turtle-selected nests had slightly higher hatching success than randomly located nests, suggesting that turtles choose nest-sites that increase offspring survival. No relationship was found between over-winter success and microhabitat, possibly due to the buffering effects of deep snow cover. The two methods of increasing fitness may not be mutually exclusive.

female, painted turtles, Chrysemys picta, offspring, reproductive season, nest sites, microhabitat characteristics, soil microclimate, hatching success, over-winter success, hatchlings