Date of Graduation

Fall 2017


Master of Science in Biology



Committee Chair

Day B. Ligon


Macrochelys temminckii, hatchling, movement, habitat, depredation

Subject Categories



Little is known about the first year of life for many of the world’s freshwater turtles. This is due in part to their cryptic nature and the difficulty of locating hatchlings in the wild. The lack of information about this demographically important age group has led researchers to draw conclusions from indirect inferences about survival rates and ecological roles of hatchlings that may or may not be accurate. To begin filling in some of these gaps, I focused on the first year in an alligator snapping turtle’s life. I studied: (1) circadian and circannual patterns of activity, (2) growth rates and how they are related to activity rates, (3) habitat preferences, (4) fall movement patterns, and (5) predation patterns. My study site was within the species’ natural range in southeastern Oklahoma. Unlike adults, hatchlings followed a predominantly diurnal activity pattern for much of the year, with peak activity occurring during the mid-hours of the day. The diurnal habit of hatchlings may be a strategy to temporally partition themselves from nocturnal predators. There were no significant relationships between growth rates and activity rates during any period, potentially due to small sample size. Hatchlings were located in areas of increased cover and shallower water depths, when compared to random locations. Their movement patterns were characterized by an initial movement away from the site of release to a location with suitable habitat characteristics, and they tended to stay at these locations for extended periods. I documented depredation by fish, but not by terrestrial predators such as raccoons.


© Sarah J. Spangler

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