Navigation Links
UAB research team saves turtle species on the brink
Date:9/22/2009

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. 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 fend against 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."


'/>"/>

Contact: Andrew Hayenga
ahayenga@uab.edu
205-934-1676
University of Alabama at Birmingham
Source:Eurekalert  

Related biology news :

1. Research shows skeleton to be endocrine organ
2. Newly created cancer stem cells could aid breast cancer research
3. Dominant cholesterol-metabolism ideas challenged by new research
4. Researchers identify proteins involved in new neurodegenerative syndrome
5. Texas researchers and educators head for Antarctica
6. MGH researchers describe new way to identify, evolve novel enzymes
7. University of Pennsylvania researchers develop formula to gauge risk of disease clusters
8. University of Oregon researcher finds that on waters surface, nitric acid is not so tough
9. U of MN researchers discover noninvasive diagnostic tool for brain diseases
10. U of Minnesota researchers discover noninvasive diagnostic tool for brain diseases
11. Story ideas from the Journal of Lipid Research
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
Related Image:
UAB research team saves turtle species on the brink
(Date:11/29/2016)... Nearly one billion matches per second with DERMALOG,s high-speed AFIS    ... ... DERMALOG is Germany's largest Multi-Biometric supplier: The company's ... Systems) ... largest Multi-Biometric supplier: The company's Fingerprint Identification System is part of an ...
(Date:11/22/2016)... 22, 2016   MedNet Solutions , an innovative ... of clinical research, is pleased to announce that the ... and Life Sciences Awards as "Most Outstanding in ... unprecedented year of recognition and growth for MedNet, which ... years. iMedNet ™ , MedNet,s ...
(Date:11/17/2016)... 17, 2016  AIC announces that it has just released a new white paper ... high-performance scale-out plus high speed data transfer storage solutions. Photo - ... ... ... Setting up a high performance computing or HPC ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:12/4/2016)... ... December 02, 2016 , ... ... and -operated small businesses in federally funded research and development is welcome news ... for optics and photonics . , As part of the National Defense Authorization ...
(Date:12/4/2016)... SAN DIEGO , Dec. 3, 2016  In ... Society of Hematology (ASH) Annual Meeting and Exposition in ... advanced biomedical engineering methods to improve the delivery of ... conditions. These new methods are designed to carry therapies ... are needed most, which could provide a substantial advantage ...
(Date:12/2/2016)... ... 2016 , ... In anticipation of AxioMed’s exclusive cleanroom manufacturing ... President, Jake Lubinski will be traveling to Switzerland from December 5-10. Mr. Lubinski ... and Zurich to discuss the benefits of a viscoelastic disc. AxioMed received CE ...
(Date:12/2/2016)... -- The Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation (MMRF) today announced that ... —the largest and most comprehensive study driving new genomic ... presented at the 58 th American Society of ... San Diego from December 3-6. The new ... as identify pathways and targets for new drug development. ...
Breaking Biology Technology: