Feeding ecology of the green turtle Chelonia mydas in northern Peru
Diet and food preferences of the green turtle Chelonia mydas were analyzed based on digestive tract contents of dead specimens caught incidentally by an artisanal gillnet fishery in Sechura Bay, northern Peru. We examined 27 digestive tracts and identified 35 prey items. The sampled turtles were all juveniles (CCL = 53.7 ± 1.2 cm, range 40.5-67.0 cm). The prey items were grouped into six categories: algae, cnidarians, mollusks, arthropods, chordates and garbage/anthropogenic debris. The items with the highest Frequency of Occurrence values (% FO) were: Caulerpa filiformis (77.8%), Loligo gahi (eggs) (51.9%) and Rhodymenia corallina (44.4%). By weight (% W), the most important items, were L. gahi (eggs) (33.3%), Stomolophus sp. (7.3%) and Aphosporosus (6.5%). According to the Preponderance Index (%IP), the preponderant item was L. gahi (eggs) with 6.1% and 61.2% during winter-spring and summer-autumn, respectively. According to the Resultant Weight index (Rw) of wet items, the most important items were: C. filiformis (13.1%), L. gahi (eggs) (10.5%), R. corallina (7.4%), plastic (7.5%), Gigartina chamissoi (5.1%). Garbage/anthropogenic debris was common in the digestive tracts analyzed. Plastic items had a frequency of occurrence of 44.4%. A greater diversity of food items was observed during summer and autumn. This study shows that juvenile C. mydas forage on a variety of resources. We recommend that conservation plans, land use planning and future management plans in the Sechura Bay include green turtles as a sentinel species for monitoring biodiversity of marine resources and the degree of pollution in the Bay.