raccoon, ghost crab, sea turtle, loggerhead, conservation, intraguild predation, nest predation, recreation, environmental variation
Changes in abundance of interactive species can have cascading, community-wide effects (Soule et al. 2003). Raccoons (Procyon lotor) prey on a competitor for marine turtle eggs, the Atlantic ghost crab (Ocypode quadrata). Conservation of marine turtles often includes managing raccoons-the most obvious egg predator-which may have broader ecological effects, and unknown effects on egg predation. Neither the relationship between raccoons and ghost crab density nor the effects of ghost crab density on egg predation are well understood. I studied raccoon-ghost crab interactions and the effects of environmental variation on their activity during the 2007 marine turtle nesting season on Canaveral National Seashore, FL. My goal was to model predator activity and identify efficient management strategies to reduce egg predation. Raccoon activity increased with increasing habitat diversity and edge of the dominant cover type, coastal strand. Raccoon activity increased locally and became less variable near segments of beach accessed for human recreation, but activity was greater on undeveloped beach, where habitat diversity and edge were greater. Ghost crab density and size were primarily affected by sand characteristics and recreation but decreased with increasing raccoon activity in June, which may have contributed to sustained declines in ghost crab density. Hatching success of marine turtles decreased with increasing ghost crab egg predation, suggesting ghost crabs are an important cause of egg mortality and not merely scavengers on unhatched eggs. Egg predation by ghost crabs was unrelated to ghost crab density or size, likely a result of monitoring limitations, but raccoon activity increased with increasing egg predation by ghost crabs, supporting previous research and experimental evidence suggesting ghost crabs can facilitate secondary nest predation by raccoons. This indirect interaction has strong implications for marine turtle conservation, because its strength may increase with increasing ghost crab density, potentially negating the effects of raccoon removal.
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Master of Science (M.S.)
College of Sciences
Length of Campus-only Access
Masters Thesis (Open Access)
Brown, Justin, "Factors Affecting Predation Of Marine Turtle Eggs By Raccoons And Ghost Crabs On Canaveral National Seashore, Fl" (2009). Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 4043.