Comparison of Epibionts between Green (Chelonia mydas) and Hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata) Sea Turtles in Bonaire, NA
Many pelagic organisms, including sea turtles, host unique communities of epibionts on the surfaces of their bodies. Although sea turtle epibiota have been studied in other areas of the world, very little research has been conducted on the epibionts found on sea turtles inhabiting the water around Bonaire, Netherland Antilles. In this study, epibiont samples were obtained from 33 sea turtles found in Bonaire. Epibionts included green and red algae, polychaete worms, skin barnacles, and turtle barnacles. Barnacle abundance and epibiont biodiversity was determined for each size class (Small, Medium, Large juveniles) of the two most common species of sea turtles found on Bonaire (Eretmochelys imbricata and Chelonia mydas). There was no significant difference in number of barnacles between E. imbricata and C. mydas. However, there was a significant increase in the number of barnacles with increasing size class in both E. imbricata and C. mydas. Epibiont biodiversity was significantly higher on E. imbricata but did not increase with size class for either species. Such findings indicate that the distinct life histories of C. mydas and E. imbricata may lead to varying degrees of epibiont accumulation.