Defense Date

2011

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science

Department

Biology

First Advisor

Joy Ware

Abstract

The Eastern box turtle (Terrapene carolina carolina) is one of the most common reptiles in North America, but is soon to be threatened due to increased urbanization, disease, and the pet and food trades. In order to assist resource managers in choosing suitable sites for relocation studies, more information on the winter ecology of this species is necessary. We examined the temperature tolerance, microhabitat and degree of philopatry to hibernacula for juvenile and adult E. box turtles for two consecutive winters in Charles City Co, VA. The turtles were tracked via radio telemetry to record point locations during the active and inactive seasons. iButton data loggers were attached to each turtle to record temperature throughout winter. Vegetation data were collected and analyzed to determine if there are microhabitat differences between adult and juvenile turtles, and between occupied and random plots. Philopatry to wintering hibernacula was determined by measurements in the field and using ArcGIS. Adults had significantly higher minimum temperatures than juveniles during the first winter (P=0.027), but not during the second winter (P=0.327). Shrub and canopy cover were marginally higher for random plots than for occupied turtle hibernacula plots (P=0.066 and P=0.092, respectively); however there were no significant differences for any of the vegetation variables between adults and juveniles. Some of the turtles demonstrated site fidelity of their hibernacula. The temperature data from this study suggests that juveniles may have poorer hibernacula selection and therefore lower minimum temperatures compared with adults, but this was not seen in our second season suggesting that juvenile turtles may learn to choose better hibernacula or to dig deeper. The difference in findings for the two winters could be attributed to illness by several of the turtles the first winter, by increased maturity in the juveniles the second winter or by the significant difference in ambient temperature for the two winters (P=0.0001). Juveniles do not differ from adults in microhabitat selection, therefore resource managers may not need to plan differently for juveniles and adults in relocation studies. We also conclude that both age groups of T. c. carolina exhibit site fidelity of hibernacula.

Rights

© The Author

Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission

7-27-2011

Included in

Biology Commons

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