Turtle life history and conservation

by ryan
6 years ago


Project start
1972 (Snapping Turtles)

1978 (Painted Turtles)

About the Project

The turtle project began in 1972 when 20 Snapping Turtles nesting on the Lake Sasajewan dam were tagged. There was no goal at that time other than to see if they returned in subsequent years.  By 1976, 80 females had been tagged and it was decided to undertake a “long-term” study of reproductive output and movements. In 1981, it was realized that these turtles were relatively long-lived and offered a reliable way to measure key life-history and environmental variables in a long-lived species that would complement the long-term (1952-present) Algonquin Park study of short-lived small mammals in comparatively undisturbed aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems. In the late 1970s and into the 1980s, Painted Turtle, Blanding’s Turtle, and Wood Turtles were incorporated into the study. Many of the turtles captured as adults in the first years of study are still alive and reproducing annually, and may be over a century old. The study has investigated growth, reproductive output and success, recruitment, genetic variation, movements, diet, (the lack of) density-dependent changes, impacts of increased mortality, age-specific life-history changes and the role and effects of thermal constraints at their climatic range limit. We now have a unique set of data spanning over 50 years and thousands of individuals (tens of thousands of captures!) and their responses to climate and demographic pressures.  Long-term studies are essential to understand such phenomena, as well as for the formulation and testing of ecological theory.