Marine Biology

, Volume 155, Issue 2, pp 233–241 | Cite as

The stomach contents of post-hatchling green and loggerhead sea turtles in the southwest Pacific: an insight into habitat association

  • M. C. BoyleEmail author
  • C. J. Limpus
Original Paper


Dietary information obtained from stomach contents can provide a wealth of information on an animal’s ecology. Where animals are cryptic, such as the post-hatchling life history stage of a sea turtle, the ecological insight that dietary analyses can provide, may be otherwise unobtainable. Investigations into post-hatchling turtle stomach contents have found planktonic organisms, dominated by pelagic molluscs and crustaceans, hydrozoans, Sargassum and fish eggs. The nature of these dietary organisms provides evidence for the widely accepted hypothesis that, with the exception of the flatback turtle (Natator depressus), the post-hatchling stage of a sea turtle’s life history is pelagic and oceanic. As the majority of studies that have investigated the stomach contents of post-hatchling sea turtles have been conducted on loggerhead turtles (Caretta caretta) in the northern Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, insight derived from dietary investigations into post-hatchling ecology is biased. This study investigates the diet of post-hatchling green turtles (Chelonia mydas) and loggerhead turtles in the southwest Pacific Ocean. Stomach contents were obtained from 55 green and loggerhead post-hatchling turtles that had stranded or been consumed by Coryphaena hippurus. Our findings demonstrate that loggerhead and green post-hatchlings in the southwest Pacific share similar feeding ecology and feed on a variety of neustonic items that are indicative of an oceanic and pelagic existence. The dietary items consumed by both species investigated belong to similar taxonomic groups as those found in previous studies with species level distinctions occurring owing to the different geographical location.


Stomach Content Green Turtle Loggerhead Turtle East Australian Current Curve Carapace Length 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



This work was undertaken in collaboration with the Queensland Marine Turtle Conservation Project of the Queensland Environmental Protection Agency and was funded in part by Australian Geographic and the Queensland Government Smart State Funding Program. The authors wish to thank the following people and organisations for their assistance with post-hatchling collection; Brian Deacon, Brian Gill, Geoff Kelly, David Kreutz, Duncan Limpus, Elton Robinson, Grant Taylor, Underwater World, Seaworld, and New South Wales Parks and Wildlife Service. We are grateful to the following people for their assistance with the identification of various organisms from the turtle’s stomachs: Dianna Jones, Roger Springthorp, Ian Loch, Dave Britten and Peter Arnold. We would also like to acknowledge the review and comments of anonymous reviewers. This work was conducted in compliance with the current Australian laws.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Marine and Tropical BiologyJames Cook UniversityTownsvilleAustralia
  2. 2.Queensland Environmental Protection AgencyBrisbaneAustralia

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