Year of Publication

2012

Season of Publication

Spring

Paper Type

Master's Thesis

College

College of Arts and Sciences

Degree Name

Master of Arts in Biology (MA)

Department

Biology

First Advisor

Dr. Joseph Butler

Second Advisor

Dr. Anthony Rossi

Third Advisor

Dr. David Rostal

Department Chair

Dr. Courtney T. Hackney

College Dean

Dr. Barbara A. Hetrick

Abstract

The demography and reproductive biology of the gopher tortoise (Gopherus polyphemus) was studied for two years at White Oak Plantation (WOP), located in northeast Florida along the St. Mary’s river. Two sub‐populations were studied in regions I referred to as Site A and Site B. I located 312 burrows and captured 109 different tortoises, either by hand or using bucket traps. Tortoise density was 4.48/ha at Site A and only 1.15/ha at Site B. Juveniles were the most abundant age class overall, while hatchlings were numerous at Site A but virtually absent at Site B. The combined sex ratio for adult tortoises at WOP was 1:1.55 (F:M). Six nests were discovered over the course of the study, all located at Site A. Mean clutch size was 3.8, much lower than other studies conducted in Florida and Georgia, but egg hatching success (87.5%) was comparable to other studies. Growth rates were mostly consistent with other studies for juvenile, sub‐adult and adult age classes, but were unusually high for hatchlings. In light of the fact that habitat fragmentation is currently one of the leading threats to tortoise populations, I propose management recommendations that will merge these two sub‐populations and lead to increased potential and gene flow for their long‐term viability.

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Biology Commons

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