An examination of the long term nesting trends and reproductive output of the northern diamondback terrapin (Malaclemys terrapin terrapin) on lower Cape Cod.
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The Northern Diamondback Terrapin, Malaclemys terrapin terrapin, is a threatened brackish water turtle in the state of Massachusetts that has been studied by the Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary for over 30 years. In my research, I examined this long term data set, as well as a smaller subset of data from Indian Neck and Great Island study sites, for nesting trends such as size correlation, depredation rate, timing of nesting excursions, and the timing of nesting season. I also examined the geographic variation of these trends among the five study sites used for this research in order to determine similarities of separate terrapin populations and corroborate the genetic closeness of said populations. A positive correlation between both female size and clutch size, and clutch size and hatchling size was determined, indicating larger females produce larger clutches and larger hatchlings. Nest depredation was found to be significantly higher in unprotected nests than in protected nests, indicating our protective measures are effective. Timing of nesting excursions by females on Indian Neck appeared to be negatively correlated with time, indicating more females nest earlier in the day. There appeared to be no correlation with tide. However, concentration of monitoring effort in the morning could be a factor in these correlations; further investigation is needed to form a stronger correlation. Nesting season has also changed significantly over the past nine years on Indian Neck; onset of nesting season is significantly earlier and duration is significantly longer than in previous years in this location. These findings could have potentially serious implications for further conservation of the diamondback terrapin.
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