Abstract

Despite the recognition of the historical importance of hawksbills in the Caribbean region of Honduras, prior sea turtle research in the area has been extremely limited, and little is known about hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata) ecology from this region. We tracked 6 juvenile hawksbills (28.7–35.6 cm, straight carapace length [SCL]) with radiotelemetry off the coast of Roatán in the Bay Islands of Honduras, conducted habitat assessments at 14 sites, and examined the diet of 5 juvenile hawksbills (19.8–49.7 cm, SCL) using gastric (n  =  4) and fecal (n  =  1) samples. Home ranges of all 6 turtles were small, with 100% minimum convex polygons from 0.15 to 0.55 km2, and a 50% fixed kernel density for all animals pooled of 5.46 km2. The habitat assessment showed that common prey items in hawksbill diets were abundant in areas where juvenile hawksbills were resident and in nonresident areas, with sponges (Chondrilla sp., Geodia sp.) and octocorals (Pseudopterogorgia sp.) being most prevalent. We found sponge to be the primary component in the diet, comprising 59% of total ingesta. The most prevalent sponge species in the diet samples were Melophlus ruber and Chondrilla caribensis. Although C. caribensis is a common constituent of hawksbill diets, the current study provides the first report of M. ruber as a component of hawksbill diets. Home ranges of juvenile hawksbills in the Port Royal region of Roatán are small (< 1 km2), and their primary dietary component is the sponge M. ruber. Conservation efforts on Roatán should be established in the Port Royal region, and should include protection of dietary items and turtles.

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