Abstract

Foraging behavior from 30 wild hawksbill turtles (Eretmochelys imbricata) was video-recorded by scuba divers on the coral reefs of Palm Beach County, Florida. A transition matrix was created to calculate the sequence and frequency of 5 behavioral categories leading to prey ingestion, and general observations associated with foraging behavior were described. Likely aided by olfaction, the hawksbills at this site employed a multistep process to preferentially locate and ingest well-concealed sessile invertebrates, notably poriferans of the class Demospongiae. Cumulatively, behavioral frequencies decreased as the sequence progressed toward prey consumption, and only a small proportion of the items handled were ingested. Highly exploratory foraging behavior may aid hawksbills to adaptively identify and prioritize dietary preferences within and among habitat types.

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