Abstract

Habitat features influence the distribution and abundance of marine animals and are used to identify critical areas to protect threatened marine species. In this study, we surveyed juvenile hawksbill turtles in 5 localities of the Culebra Archipelago, Puerto Rico; described the habitats using cover of benthic features; and related relative abundance of turtles among localities with food availability. We tested the hypothesis that variability in turtle abundance among study sites was related to spatial variability in the availability of diet items. Our results point out that spatial variability in turtle abundance is not related to food availability by itself; rather, the structural complexity and types of benthic structure played a more important role in explaining the turtles' local abundance. The importance of structural complexity is most likely related to sheltering.

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