Abstract

Despite its importance to individual fitness and population dynamics, the dispersal behaviors of most neonate freshwater turtles after nest emergence are poorly known. We studied the initial dispersal tendencies of neonate Ouachita map turtles (Graptemys ouachitensis) exiting natural nests during 2015–2017 along the Wisconsin River, Wisconsin. Overall, dispersal was nonrandom, and hatchlings largely oriented toward the nearest substantial vegetative cover, a woodland north of the nesting area. However, variation sometimes occurred in routes taken among hatchlings within a clutch. Directional changes within an individual's dispersal track, including route reversals, were also observed. As our work appears to be the first to use standalone trail cameras as a primary data-gathering tool for a hatchling dispersal study, it highlights the potential benefits and limitations of this technique for similar research.

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