ABSTRACT

Patterns of interspecific differences in the diets of nonavian reptiles may be complicated by intraspecific dietary diversity that is related to variation in body size and trophic morphology. Graptemys pearlensis and Graptemys gibbonsi are sister map turtle species endemic to adjacent Gulf Coastal river drainages and both are candidates for federal listing. Little has been reported about the diet of either species. We examined fecal samples collected from turtles captured throughout their respective ranges in the Pearl and Pascagoula river drainages. Females of both species primarily consumed invasive Asian clams (Corbicula spp.), with adult females being nearly exclusively molluscivorous while juvenile females also consumed softer-bodied prey items. Adult males and unsexed juveniles primarily consumed insects; males in particular specialized on trichopteran larvae and also ate more mollusks than did unsexed juveniles. In comparisons to each species' sympatric congeneric sawback species, the two focal species' avoidance of sponges caused large interspecific differences. Due to their greater consumption of insect prey than mollusks, unsexed juvenile G. pearlensis and unsexed juvenile and adult male G. gibbonsi were slightly more similar in diet to their respective sympatric congeneric sawbacks than to conspecific large juvenile females and adult females. Scoring of similarity in diet was greatly influenced by strongly predominant prey items found within each class of each species. Future studies of interspecific dietary differences in sympatric species should include consideration of intraspecific variation in diet as it relates to body size and sexual dimorphism.

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