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Open Access Research article

Phenology of marine turtle nesting revealed by statistical model of the nesting season

Marc Girondot1*, Philippe Rivalan1, Ronald Wongsopawiro2, Jean-Paul Briane1, Vincent Hulin1, Stéphane Caut1, Elodie Guirlet1 and Matthew H Godfrey3

Author Affiliations

1 Ecologie, Systématique et Evolution, UMR 8079, Université Paris-Sud, ENGREF et CNRS, Bât. 362, 91405 Orsay cedex, France

2 Réserve Naturelle de 1'Amana, 270 avenue Paul Henri, 97319 Awala-Yalimapo, Guyane française

3 NC Wildlife Resources Commission, 1507 Ann St., Beaufort, NC 28516, USA

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BMC Ecology 2006, 6:11  doi:10.1186/1472-6785-6-11

Published: 31 August 2006



Marine turtles deposit their eggs on tropical or subtropical beaches during discrete nesting seasons that span several months. The number and distribution of nests laid during a nesting season provide vital information on various aspects of marine turtle ecology and conservation.


In the case of leatherback sea turtles nesting in French Guiana, we developed a mathematical model to explore the phenology of their nesting season, derived from an incomplete nest count dataset. We detected 3 primary components in the nest distribution of leatherbacks: an overall shape that corresponds to the arrival and departure of leatherback females in the Guianas region, a sinusoidal pattern with a period of approximately 10 days that is related to physiological constraints of nesting female leatherbacks, and a sinusoidal pattern with a period of approximately 15 days that likely reflects the influence of spring high tides on nesting female turtles.


The model proposed here offers a variety of uses for both marine turtles and also other taxa when individuals are observed in a particular location for only part of the year.