Shell of a life: A review of the geographic frequency of amphipods, cnidarians and annelids as loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta) epibionts

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Florida Southern College
Loggerhead sea turtles carry diverse communities of organisms including many invertebrate species on their carapace as epibionts. Investigating the frequency of amphipods, cnidarians and annelids from several epibiont studies in different hemispheres reveals geographic information such as migratory behavior about these three groups and their relationships with loggerhead sea turtles. Frequency data from 383 loggerheads in 8 epibiont identification studies was extrapolated and analyzed. A total of 84 invertebrate species were described among these studies. 7% of the total species (6) were cosmopolitan, or found in both hemispheres. The eastern hemisphere displayed the highest overall number of species (49), followed by the western hemisphere with 29 species. The only group found in greater frequency in the western hemisphere was the cnidarians, and this study suggests that cnidarians reside primarily in one hemisphere or the other, therefore sea turtles may lose them from the carapace when migrating. Annelida species were found in low frequencies in both geographic locations but should be expected on loggerhead carapaces in the Mediterranean. Overall, many invertebrates, including ones described in this review, could be deemed novel obligate commensals of loggerheads and their relationship with migrating species provides insight to movement patterns and the life stages of sea turtles.
Honors Thesis Spring 2021
Loggerhead turtle, Amphipoda, Cnidaria, Annelida