Abstract

Here we describe the effects of beach morphological features on loggerhead (Caretta caretta) nesting behavior on the barrier islands of the north-central Gulf of Mexico. Our results show that loggerhead crawl length decreases as beach slope increases, and our data comparing nest crawls (resulting in egg laying) versus false crawls (emergence onto the beach without laying eggs) suggest that beach slope and crawl length differ between the crawl types but elevation does not. We infer that loggerheads cue in to beach slope to reach a perceived elevation with reduced risk of inundation, crawling longer distances on flatter slopes compared with shorter distances on steep slopes, but that after this elevation is reached, other environmental variables may ultimately factor into the decision to lay eggs.

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