Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

UAB Research Team Working to Keep Terrapin Turtle Off Endangered Species List

24.09.2009
University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) researchers exploring strategies for conserving the Diamondback Terrapin along Alabama's Dauphin Island coastline are working to keep the once-celebrated turtle off the endangered species list.

The Diamondback Terrapin has been a national delicacy, a source of state taxes and a casualty of commercial development and victim of new predators, but now its prospects are improved by a UAB-based turtle hatchery that may accelerate the growth of the fledgling population.

In 2006, a UAB research team began its examination of conservation and recovery strategies for the Diamondback Terrapin in Alabama. After three years, biology professors Thane Wibbels, Ph.D., and Ken Marion, Ph.D., and doctoral student Andy Coleman concluded that the species was fighting for survival.

"This spring we began the captive rearing of the terrapin, opening up a hatchery at UAB," Coleman said. "With almost each weekly trip to Dauphin Island, we return to Birmingham with a new clutch of eggs. If we did not rescue them, raccoons would destroy as many as 90 percent of the eggs nesting naturally along the wetland beaches."

Commercial growth in the Dauphin Island area in recent decades has constricted the turtle population's habitat. New predators like raccoons and threats like crab traps also have been introduced into the environment. All of these factors have driven the animals to near-endangered species status, and losing the species could badly damage the local ecosystem by throwing the food chain out of whack. Terrapin are voracious snail eaters who use their strong jaws to break through snail shells.

"Our work along the Cedar Point marsh on Dauphin Island started with research into the threats posed by natural predators and man-made devices like crab traps, which can catch the turtles and lead to drowning," Wibbels said.

Wibbels said the early research efforts showed a population on the brink, a view confirmed in the 2004 Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resource's book Alabama Wildlife, in which the Diamondback terrapin was listed as a highest conservation concern.

Wibbels said the research quickly moved into its next phase: recovery of the terrapin population. Coleman, Wibbels and Marion identified strategies for decreasing predation and began field testing terrapin excluder devices (TEDs) on crab traps to protect the turtle population from becoming ensnared in the traps.

Coleman said increasing the turtle population is as important as reducing habitat threats. In the UAB hatchery, Diamondback Terrapin eggs are hatched in incubators, and the turtles are returned to Dauphin Island when they are large enough to avoid attacks by birds and raccoons.

"Their natural instincts are amazing," Wibbels said. "When we return the young terrapins to the Cedar Point marsh area, they immediately head to marshland and don't give the Gulf Coast a second look - it's just an amazing example of how their instincts are hard-wired for their particular habitat."

Heading into the early 1900s, Diamondback terrapin stew was considered a top U.S. delicacy. In 1881, the New York Times reported that demand for the stew was met by a Diamondback Terrapin farm on Dauphin Island's Cedar Point. The farm was reported to be the second largest in the country for raising the Diamondback Terrapin with as many as 25,000 terrapins calling the spot home at the operation's peak. Around this time, the farm annually shipped 10,000 terrapin from Alabama to the U.S. Northeast, selling a dozen terrapin for as much as $90.

Famed biologist Archie Carr named the Diamondback terrapin the most expensive turtle in the world, pound for pound, in his 1952 Handbook of Turtles.

"To tell you how historically important the species was to the state's economy, the state legislature actually enacted a terrapin sales tax in 1923 to generate revenue," Wibbels said. "This is why we've acted so decisively; we did not want to see a part of Alabama history lost."

Funding support for this research has been provided by the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, State Wildlife Grants Program and Alabama Center for Estuarine Studies.

About the UAB Department of Biology

The UAB Department of Biology is a dynamic academic partnership that provides a broad-based graduate and undergraduate curriculum. Most members of the graduate faculty have research specialties in comparative biochemistry, physiology and eco-physiology of aquatic organisms. A second, important department research focus is environmental microbiology.

Andrew Hayenga | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.uab.edu

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Upcycling 'fast fashion' to reduce waste and pollution
03.04.2017 | American Chemical Society

nachricht Litter is present throughout the world’s oceans: 1,220 species affected
27.03.2017 | Alfred-Wegener-Institut, Helmholtz-Zentrum für Polar- und Meeresforschung

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

7th International Conference on Crystalline Silicon Photovoltaics in Freiburg on April 3-5, 2017

03.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Bare bones: Making bones transparent

27.04.2017 | Life Sciences

Study offers new theoretical approach to describing non-equilibrium phase transitions

27.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

From volcano's slope, NASA instrument looks sky high and to the future

27.04.2017 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>